Finding the leaders
A new contest: name conservative evangelicals with attractive personalities to inspire the young
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How much do any of us remember about the specific content of college classes?
A walk on Manhattan's Park Avenue, with the Seagram Building on one side and Lever House on the other, reminds me of architecture professor Vincent Scully's lavish praise of them. Occasionally I remember other professorial lectures. But 40 years ago I met two journalists, and theirs was the gift that kept on taking-taking me to a desire to echo their sardonic negativity about America.
One, Seymour Hersh, was 33 at the time. The other, David Halberstam, was 36. Both had recently won Pulitzer Prizes for their anti-war reporting from Vietnam. I met them before I knew much about them, and then started reading more by and about them. They seemed admirable. First they won my heart. Then they won my brain.
Both Halberstam, now deceased, and Hersh, still ticking, were leftists, but the same pattern is observable on the right. In our April 24 issue we ran an interview with National Review editor Rich Lowry (see "Young and restless"), who said, "It's very telling how political psychology works: I saw Bill Buckley on his famous television program Firing Line and was blown away by his persona. . . . That's how I discovered National Review and that's how I got a political education."
Lowry and I both worked our way backward: What do these people believe? That's frequently the case with others as well. And that's what's so troubling about conversations I have with many evangelicals of college age and slightly beyond: They frequently cannot think of a single conservative evangelical whom they admire. Some of them in 2008, as they encountered laudatory coverage of Barack Obama, gave their hearts to him, switching off their brains in the process.
Conservative evangelicals over 50 are worried about those under 30. They worry about lack of church attendance and commitment, although-historically-age and children lead many wanderers home. They also worry about a political slide to the left, and it's too early to tell whether a growing awareness of the reality of sin and the unreality of utopias will do the same. Thus the question arises: What can elders do to keep the young from being lost at sea?
Like the central figure in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, folks my age have tended to offer the young long and winding stories-but the latter, heading toward wedding ceremonies or other festive occasions, are first bemused and then impatient. We'd do better to show them people a little older than them (up to age 40, say) who think biblically and are already standing up for both liberty and virtue.
An example of such a person is Ted Cruz, the 39-year-old former solicitor general (WORLD, Nov. 7, 2009) of Texas: He could well be a future governor and president. The son of a Cuban immigrant who came too late to an understanding of Fidel Castro, Cruz became a national debate champion and brought a college audience to its feet last fall as he punctured the pretensions of U.S. mini-Castros and offered a message of real hope. But it's not just in politics and law that people like Cruz can be found. We need them in many fields: From media and the arts, from medicine and science, from business and philanthropy.
So we begin another WORLD contest. I thank those this year and last who nominated compassionate organizations and the best closing lines of books, but now comes something even harder: Nominating a person. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: By July 31 send June McGraw a name and one-paragraph description of an articulate conservative evangelical under the age of 40 who already has a record of accomplishment and seems likely to accomplish more.
We're looking for people with attractive personalities who are committed to political decentralization, free markets, and Bible-based cultural norms. We'll research your nominees and interview some. The particular field is less important than the person. Since the proclamation of propositional truths does not engage some younger evangelicals, our goal is to offer narratives of exciting lives, profiling in words and film the most impressive. Please help us find them. Email Marvin Olasky
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