(CNSNews.com) – Trail-blazing conservative William F. Buckley has been gone for ten years, but his influence lives on for young conservatives.
Buckley’s legacy was the topic on Wednesday at a panel discussion at Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference.
Lee Edwards, a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and Matt Continetti, editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, participated in the discussion.
“William F. Buckley, Jr. was a model for so many young people,” Edwards said.
Before the rise of Buckley in the 1950s, America was “a wasteland for conservatism.” Buckley’s work helped the movement tremendously, Edwards said.
“Bill Buckley, by reason of his wealth and social position, he was a very well off guy, could’ve been the playboy of the western world. But instead, he chose to be the St. Paul of the conservative movement,” Edwards said.
Edwards helped to found Young Americans for Freedom, now Young America’s Foundation, along with Buckley and others at Buckley’s home in Connecticut. He said the first meeting of YAF in 1960 totaled 90 people—only five of them women.
“We’re a lot better off today. Looking out at this audience today, I’m looking at -- at least 50 percent of you are women, and we’re a much stronger, better movement for that,” Edwards said.
That meeting in Sharon, Connecticut in 1960 produced what is called the “Sharon Statement,” a statement of conservative beliefs.
Continetti, a former intern at "The National Review," the publication launched by Buckley, remembered attending a dinner at Buckley’s Manhattan residence:
“I had this opportunity that very few young conservatives had in the beginning part of this century. And of course, now we can’t, none of us can spend an evening with William F. Buckley Jr. at one of the bi-weekly editorial dinners that he hosted,” Continetti lamented.
“We go to the house, and you’re immediately entering this room that if you’re a young conservative, I don’t think (you) ever really want to leave, and it’s the world of William Buckley, Jr.”
L. Brent Bozell III, the founder of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of CNSNews.com, is Buckley’s nephew.
Remembering his late uncle in February at the National Review Institute, Bozell said Buckley was “unpredictable in the way he looked at the world.”
“You could say with certainly that if Bill came back at age 60, today, and looked at the world, he would be so dismayed by the jailbreak of inanity that’s out there, where people don’t speak seriously about anything.”
Bozell said Buckley also would be “horrified” by the “utter lack of civility” in the public conversation.