My brother in Denver sent me this piece from the New York Times this morning, about Robert P. George of Princeton. The article’s author, David Kirkpatrick, writes of his subject as a “professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.
Which is interesting, because I was not familiar with him before reading this article. I think I had heard of him before, but that’s about it. I’m reading the fairly lengthy article at the present moment (blogging never waits), but one of the first things I noticed was his sense of style.
Of his physical appearance at a meeting in Manhattan, the Times notes that George was “dressed in his usual uniform of three-piece suit, New College, Oxford cuff links and rimless glasses.” I’ve got to say I appreciate this. I’ve had a few great instructors at the University of Missouri, but for the most part, one thing I would not give them high marks for is their rather lackadaisical approach to attire and appearance.
There seems to be an unspoken code in some places that to be a professor one must assume a kind of artisan aloofness in personal dress. That to look otherwise would be pretentious, or conformist, or somehow not reflect the proletariat ethos of the professoriate. It’s ridiculous of course, and I have a mind to write a letter to the school newspaper to blow off a little steam about it. Maybe the courteous thing would be to first bring my concerns to the political science department itself. But I digress.
I’m glad to learn about George. I’ll keep him on my radar screen now. It’s tough to pinpoint any one person as “the country’s most influential conservative thinker.” So I don’t know if I buy the label yet for George. Personally, I would say that Charles Krauthammer (from the field of medicine, with experience in presidential politics) is the country’s most important conservative political voices. Slightly different category perhaps, but there you go. Other intellectuals to consider would have to include Marvin Olasky (with a background in history, journalism and theology), a Protestant and political conservative who serves as editor of WORLD [and as provost of The King’s College] Magazine among other things, and Peter Wood (an anthropologist by training), president of the National Association of Scholars and [former] provost of The King’s College in New York City.
That’s only a very quick mental perusal of the topic, though. There are many leading lights of the intellectual conservative movement, each occupying their own niche and taking on important work. It’s people like this I want to learn from and emulate in their passion and seriousness of approach, and we will need many such individuals to impact society and government in fundamental, positive ways.
Ultimately, any movement needs someone who can communicate its ideals persuasively to the public, and the article correctly noted conservative intellectuals’ current concern over a “leadership vacuum on the Christian right.” I’ve written before that Rep. Mike Pence should run for president. He’s stepped into a national role and I believe he is an effective spokesperson for the conservative cause. I like Romney in the 2012 primary, although I’m willing to give Pawlenty a look as well. One thing is for certain – Barack Obama may soon be the best public case for conservatism before too long.
NOTE: This article was updated on 12/21/09 to identify Peter Wood as the former – not current – provost of The King’s College. (And Marvin Olasky as the current provost). I regret the earlier error.