NEW HAVEN, CT -- The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale University, a newly founded, student-run speaker series, hosted David Frum Tuesday in its inaugural on-campus event. Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush often credited with coining the phrase "axis of evil," spoke on the contemporary right to a crowd of about 50 Yale undergraduates and other guests gathered in Yale's Branford College.
Frum shared his thoughts on a wide array of subjects, ranging from his personal experiences with William F. Buckley, Jr. to the disturbing rise of anti-elitism in American politics to the "disappointing" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it was on the challenges facing his listeners' generation that he had the most to say.
"You're inheriting a very dismal situation," Frum said, arguing that more than a decade of bad governance by both parties has weakened America financially and culturally. He noted grimly that during the last ten to twelve years, "if a decision was made in Washington, and it was important, then it was a disaster."
Frum encouraged his listeners, particularly conservatives, not to buy into the anti-elitist sentiment that is becoming more and more common in political rhetoric. "The fact is there are elites, and all of you are members," he said. But he clarified that the elitism he argued for was different from snobbery, adding that "there has never been a stronger need for those who are lucky ... to feel a sense of responsibility for those around them.
The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program was founded this year by two seniors, Lauren Noble and Erin Fackler. Named after the Yale graduate who wrote God and Man at Yale and eventually founded National Review, the series seeks to remedy what its founders call Yale's political conformity and complacency. As they see it, left-wing voices dominate discussion on campus, to the exclusion of conservative ideas and the detriment of the student body.
"Conservatives are losing the argument on college campuses like Yale," Noble explained. "But that is not the only reason presenting the conservative viewpoint is important. Intellectual diversity is critical to a college education."
Frum would agree. A Yale man himself, he reminisced that conservatism was a minority view during his college years as well, but one with "unusual appeal for the very cleverest people."
The Buckley Program will host its next guest, Richard Perle, on April 14.