I met William F. Buckley exactly once. Last Spring, I sat next to him during a piano recital in the parlor of his Manhattan apartment. We exchanged a few words before and after. Mostly, I tried not to sound like a complete idiot in front of a man of extraordinary and thoroughly intimidating intelligence. It was a brief, passing encounter which consisted mostly of bumbling on my part, but, minor a moment as it may have been, I’m sure I’ll never forget it, and equally certain I’ll always cherish it.
I don’t have too much to say about his passing, for anything I do say will surely be insufficient. He was a great man who changed the course of politics in America, and whose achievements continue to have a profound impact on my life and the life of many people I know. It would probably not be an overstatement to say that the whole of conservatism in America is his legacy.
More than that, he was a man devoted to the notion that both words and ideas have a basic, intrinsic value, even apart from the political and cultural battles to which they are attached. This was obvious in every sentence he wrote, every word he uttered. His natural talent with language was simply extraordinary, as was the depth and clarity of his understanding. He was not merely clever and smart; he was wise. Conservatism lost a great defender and advocate today, and the larger world of ideas and letters lost one of its greatest minds.