By: Gabrielle Vozzi
The following essay was the third-place winner of the Buckley Program’s spring semester high school essay contest. The topic was “What can we learn from William F. Buckley, Jr. today?”.
Today, the United States is a divided nation as political polarization can be seen in every corner of the country. Now, more than ever, this nation needs the wisdom of William F. Buckley, Jr. Buckley’s conservative beliefs and overall view of government can greatly influence the nation today. His beliefs in small government, sticking up for what is right, and adhering to one’s principles display his vast political knowledge. Through the examination of three of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s most well known quotes and their connection to the world in which we live in today, it will become clear that this nation can still learn a lot from him.
“I will not cede by power to the state.” One of Buckley’s most well known quotes has a very simple meaning; the government should not be extremely involved in the lives of its citizens. The founding fathers strongly believed that citizens should have certain unalienable rights, thus, they created the Bill of Rights. Currently, the rights given by those first ten amendments are under siege, new legislation to restrict the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, has been introduced at a record breaking number over the past six years. Since 2011, over 100 gun laws have been proposed by Congress. Buckley would be against these laws. The proposed legislation would take power away from the people and give it to the government. It is important that the citizens of the United States take a stance and protect the rights that have been bestowed upon them. Buckley believed that a small government, where the people still held individual freedoms was vital for a successful democracy.
“The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.” The key word in this quote is usurpatory. Usurpatory is defined as “a wrongful seizure or exercise of authority or privilege belonging to another”. Today, citizens hold protests even when their rights are not infringed upon. On January 21, 2017, the day after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration women took to the streets all around the globe to protest Trump and his views. This type of assertive citizenry is not what Buckley had in mind. When rights are threatened, when the government exceeds its Constitutional powers, then one must be defiant. Americans today need to learn the right time to stand up and fight.
“The largest cultural menace in America is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose upon the nation their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so.” Buckley knew that it is okay to have a different view, to think about things in a different capacity. In fact, it is of the utmost importance not to conform. Today, the United States is a place in which different ideas are not accepted. In January 2017, conservative students at West Virginia University were attacked for having different beliefs than their peers. Currently, the United States has a political landscape that encourages conformity over individuality. Instead of accepting that there are different viewpoints, many Americans attack what they do not understand. It is vital that the American people start accepting different viewpoints.
William F. Buckley, Jr. was never afraid to speak his mind and share his views. Through his words, Buckley shared his wisdom and, although he is no longer with us, this nation can still learn so much from him. The role of government does not include interference with the daily lives of citizens. There are appropriate times in which citizens must stand up for themselves against the government, but there are also times where protest is unnecessary. Conformity takes away from the political conversation and it remains extremely important to adhere to one’s beliefs. William F. Buckley, Jr.’s ideas are still relevant in today’s world and the citizens of the United States can still learn from his astute words.
Gabrielle Vozzi is a junior at West Haven High School.