Highlights & News
Seminars Resume in October
On October 17, Michigan college students gathered for a “Little Platoon” seminar sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The Center made several changes to our usual practices due to Covid-19 limitations and was able to successfully adapt to the circumstances. Students were delighted to participate in person at the Kirk library. Dr. Jeff Polet of Hope College led the seminar, joined by Dr. Jason Peters of Augustana College for an examination of citizenship in Robert Frost’s poem “The Mending Wall.” The response was enthusiastic with students commenting, “the interaction with other students and the opportunity for fellowship was really refreshing,” and, “I’m excited to have been introduced to these wonderful resources.”
Mecosta Community Foundation Awards Grant to the Kirk Center
Thanks to a grant from the Mecosta County Community Foundation, the Kirk Center recently installed a brochure repository next to the Michigan Historical Marker honoring Russell Kirk. The Michigan Historical Commission dedicated the Marker in the fall of 2019 and Justice Stephen Markman spoke on that occasion, noting that “Russell Kirk was singular in the breadth and variety of his literary contributions, as a philosopher, an historian, a journalist and commentator, a founder and editor of learned journals, and an author of lasting and influential works of scholarship and fiction.”
The matching post-box style repository will hold brochures and newsletters for visitors who stop to read the Marker and would like to know more about the Kirk Center. It is particularly useful during this time of social distancing. The Kirk Center, a long-time member of the village of Mecosta, is grateful for the support of the Mecosta County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Fremont Area Community Foundation.
A short article by Dr. Kirk on why he settled in Mecosta and Michigan’s exciting history can be found at Classic Kirk.
Kirk Center Co-Founder Interviewed on
“Coffee with Cornelius” Podcast
Dr. Jeffrey Nelson, co-founder of The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, joined Cornelius Christian on his podcast to discuss the influence of the traditionalist conservative strand within American conservatism, Russell Kirk’s main ideas, and what Kirk would have thought about the response to COVID-19 in the U.S. Professor Christian, host of “Coffee with Cornelius,” teaches economics at a university in Canada. Listen and watch here.
The University Bookman at 60: A Retrospective
This year, the University Bookman celebrates its 60th year of publication. Historian George Nash charts the journal from its origins in an arrangement between Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley Jr. to its evolution into a respected source for cultural commentary from a conservative perspective in his essay “Defending the Right and the Good.” Looking back at the challenges to its continuity, Nash finds several lessons, among them:
[T]he University Bookman’s story exemplifies what can happen when a person of conservative persuasion takes a stand and casts a proverbial pebble into a pond. No one can predict what the consequences may be. I suspect that Kirk often thought of this as he edited his low-key periodical and watched its ripples press outward with each issue.
College Students Attend The Tocqueville Forum’s Retreat at The Kirk Center
The Kirk Center hosted students from The Tocqueville Forum of Hope College, joined by additional students from Northwood University, for an intellectual retreat titled “From Statesmanship to Poetry” from November 22 – 24. Organized by Dr. Jeff Polet, professor of political science at Hope College, the seminar included the following lectures:
“The Art and Science of Statesmanship” – Dr. Michael Federici, Middle Tennessee State University
“The Threats of Corruption” – Dr. Molly McGrath, Assumption College
“Honor, Integrity, and the Need for Nations in Shakespeare’s King John” – Dr. Kahlil Habib, Hillsdale College
“Hills Like White Elephants” – Dr. Jason Peters, Augustana College
These young people were among the more than 250 undergraduate and graduate students who participated in seminars at Piety Hill this year. Here at the home of conservative thought in America, students are introduced to and grow in their understanding of both the moral imagination and the permanent things.
University of Louisville Students Consider Law, Culture, and the Afterlife at The Kirk Center
Forty students from The University of Louisville traveled from Kentucky to the Kirk Center in Mecosta to attend a four-day seminar led by Kirk Center Senior Fellows and other distinguished scholars.
Senior Fellows James Person Jr., Dr. Bruce Frohnen of Ohio Northern University College of Law, and Dr. Jeffrey Polet of Hope College spoke on the following topics respectively: “Russell Kirk–Son of Plymouth and Mecosta,” “Decadence, Renewal, & America’s Way Home,” and “Russell Kirk & America’s British Culture.”
Students participated in round-table discussions of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, guided by Dr. David Whalen of Hillsdale College, and of Scipio’s Dream and The Celestial Railroad by Dr. Gary Gregg of the McConnell Center. Additionally, they enjoyed conversing with Center President Annette Kirk and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman.
Many of the students commented that the gathering was a highlight of their year, and several shared their reflections on the seminar:
“I have loved my experience at the Kirk Center. It has renewed my love for inquiry….the Kirk Center is a beacon of light for learning and truth-seeking that would be a valuable experience for anyone willing to learn.”
“Dr. Kirk’s work has reinforced my understanding of the importance of imagination and I appreciate all you do to continue that legacy and revitalize the moral imagination.”
The State of Michigan Places Historic Marker at Russell Kirk’s Home
On August 17, 2019, a Michigan Historic Marker honoring Dr. Russell Kirk as Michigan’s greatest man of letters was unveiled and dedicated outside his home in Mecosta, Michigan.
Wilbur Fellow alumni were among those gathered on a beautiful August day to hear from Kirk Center President Annette Kirk, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman, State Senator Rick Outman, Kirk Center Chairman Senator Joanne Emmons, and Director of the Michigan History Center Sandra Clark.
In a special tribute coinciding with the placement of the Historic Marker, Representative John Moolenaar from Michigan’s 4th Congressional District took to the floor of the United States House to offer his appreciation for Dr. Russell Kirk:
“In his books, articles, speeches, and interviews, Dr. Kirk’s wisdom has shaped the thinking of generations of conservatives around the world. His ideas have personally helped me in forming my own beliefs and it’s a privilege to pay special tribute to Dr. Kirk and his legacy today.”
You can view Rep. Moolenaar’s speech in its entirety on his Facebook page.
Professor Hiro Aida, Japanese translator of “The Conservative Mind,” tours Michigan colleges and visits the Kirk Center
At Northwood University and Hope College, Professor Hiro Aida told students about the close relationship and parallel modernization of America and Japan – an important contrast to the relatively short enmity between the two countries during WW2. But his presentations at the Russell Kirk Center enabled a deeper examination of how Japan wrestled with modernization, and how Edmund Burke became an important conservative counterweight to the pernicious ideas of Rousseau.
Professor Aida delighted the Kirk Center audience with stories and insights of personal connections that both Russell Kirk and Friedrich Hayek had to Edwin McClellan and his translation of Kokoro, an important Japanese novel about the perils of modernity.
The visit of Hiro Aida was made possible by a grant to Northwood University from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
City Journal Profiles Kirk Center Senior Fellow George H. Nash
In an essay for City Journal, Christian Alejandro Gonzalez interviews George H. Nash, noted historian and Kirk Center Senior Fellow, on his life’s work exploring the meaning of American conservatism yesterday and today. Gonzalez writes:
“In his landmark history, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945, he gives a fair hearing to traditionalists and libertarians, neoconservatives and paleoconservatives alike, never intervening on behalf of the faction that he believes to possess the superior argument. Intra-conservative debates are presented with charity toward all sides.”
To the problems facing conservatives today, Nash does “offer a word of advice on how they could build a new consensus. Any return to first principles, he has written, must be undertaken with an eye toward what conservatives want at a fundamental level. He offers his view of what that is:
‘To put it in elementary terms we [conservatives] want to be free, we want to live virtuous and productive lives, and we want to be secure from threats beyond and within our borders. We want to live in a society that sustains and encourages these aspirations. Freedom, virtue, safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security dimensions of the conservative movement. But to achieve these perennial goals, we must communicate in language that connects not only with our own coterie but with the great majority of the American people.’”
Students from Michigan Public Policy Organizations Gather for Seminar
We love to welcome members of the rising generation to the Center in Mecosta to deepen their understanding of the conservative intellectual tradition and the origins of America’s heritage of ordered liberty. On June 24, summer interns from The Acton Institute and the The Mackinac Center for Public Policy spent the day learning at the Center with Senior Fellow Gleaves Whitney from Hauenstein Center at GVSU and Dan McCarthy, editor of Modern Age and director of the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship at The Fund for American Studies.
A Day at the Center for Professionals
On June 22, the Kirk Center hosted a one-day seminar for professionals based on Russell Kirk’s books The American Cause and The Roots of American Order. While many of the Center’s programs are geared toward students and professors, this seminar was attended by guests from the general public seeking to understand and strengthen the institutions, beliefs, and practices that undergird America’s tradition of ordered liberty. Speakers included Daniel McCarthy, editor of Modern Age, and Jeffrey Polet, professor of Political Science at Hope College and a Kirk Center Senior Fellow. Visitors enjoyed browsing in Dr. Kirk’s library and hearing stories about the home and area from Annette Kirk.
Regnery Gateway Publishes Russell Kirk’s Concise Guide to Conservatism
The Kirk Center is pleased to announce the publication of Russell Kirk’s Concise Guide to Conservatism, an essential summary of conservative principles. This is a new edition of a book written in 1957 and originally titled The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Conservatism–a retort to George Bernard Shaw’s Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism. Only 100 pages long, the work has long been unavailable but has now been rediscovered as a succinct sequel to The Conservative Mind. Given the present confusion about the meaning of conservatism, this book “comes at an opportune moment,” as Matthew Continetti recently commented in National Review.
Most amazingly of all, this book has required no dramatic revision after the passage of sixty-two years. That very fact gives it unexpected weight. Kirk’s insights about family, the importance of private property, education, religion, and a dozen other subjects not only remain completely sound but now seem downright prophetic. See if you don’t agree. If that’s not proof that Kirk’s conservatism was grounded in the Permanent Things, I don’t know what is.
– From the new introduction by Wilfred M. McClay, professor and author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story
The University Bookman Hosts Poetry Reading in New York
James Matthew Wilson, professor at Villanova University and poetry editor for Modern Age, read from and discussed his new collection of poetry for a University Bookman gathering in New York City on March 28. For the first time, James read in public a sonnet “For Russell Kirk” that he wrote to commemorate the centenary of Kirk’s birth and which will be published in National Review. The event was held at the beautiful St. Michael’s rectory before a full house of Bookman readers, some of whom traveled from other states to attend this gathering.
As a graduate student, James was a Wilbur Fellow at the Kirk Center. Of the lasting significance of his time as a Fellow, he writes:
All my study and my writing seeks to extend the tradition that Kirk so marvelously described in his many books; his was the mind of a historian, mine, I suppose, of a poet and philosopher, and so I have sought especially to understand the role that the fine arts play within a decent human existence and to understand as well those metaphysical principles which lie beneath and give form to the disposition of the conservative.
C-SPAN History Airs Conservative Writers’ Panel Discussion Exploring the Legacy of Russell Kirk
On November 13, 2018, University Bookman editor Gerald Russello, National Review Institute senior fellow John O’Sullivan, and Modern Age editor Daniel McCarthy gathered to discuss Russell Kirk’s influence, legacy, and the future of conservatism at an event in New York City called Kirk, Conservatism, and the Next Century. This Kirk Centennial event was co-sponsored by the Russell Kirk Center and the National Review Institute. C-SPAN history was on site to film the event which aired in early 2019 and can be viewed in its entirety at the link below.
Plymouth Library Hosts Capacity Audience
for Presentation on Russell Kirk
On October 19, 2018–100 years to the date that Russell Kirk was born in Plymouth, Michigan–the Plymouth District Library held an event celebrating his achievements. James Person, editor of Imaginative Conservatism: The Letters of Russell Kirk (2018), spoke on Kirk the man and the writer, accompanied by rarely-seen photos from Kirk’s boyhood in Michigan. In a surprise appearance, representative Jeff Noble presented a tribute in honor of Dr. Kirk from the State of Michigan. Among the several Wilbur Fellow alumni in attendance was attorney Max Goss, who spoke about the Society for Law and Culture, a new program he founded under the auspices of the Kirk Center. A stunning cake resembling a stack of Dr. Kirk’s most popular books made by a local bakery pleased the crowd. Each attendee received a booklet entitled “Russell Kirk: Pillar of Tradition,” a chapter from Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors, to bring wider attention to the work and thought of “Michigan’s greatest man of letters.”
Romanian Group Launches Essay Contest on Kirk’s Books
Remus Tanasă, a Romanian reader of Dr. Kirk’s books, founded the Russell Kirk Romania group in 2016 to promote Kirk’s ideas and books in that country. On October 18, Professor Tanasă launched an essay contest on the topic “Russell Kirk, Conservatism, and the Permanent Things,” sponsored by Russell Kirk Romania and LaPunkt magazine, to increase awareness of Dr. Kirk’s books. The contest winners will be selected by a distinguished panel of six judges which includes Dr. Mihail Neamțu, a scholar and author of ten books who was a Wilbur Fellow at the Kirk Center in 2008.
The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal provided copies of several books for the essay contest. We are delighted to hear of this initiative by Professor Tanasă and encourage anyone who speaks Romanian to visit their website “Russell Kirk Romania.”
Imaginative Conservatism: The Letters of Russell Kirk
A prolific author and wise cultural critic, Russell Kirk kept up a steady stream of correspondence with friends and colleagues throughout the world, but these letters have never been published until now. In Imaginative Conservatism: The Letters of Russell Kirk, editor James E. Person, Jr. presents for the first time 190 of Dr. Kirk’s most provocative and insightful letters. Published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2018, the collection includes correspondence between Kirk and prominent figures T. S. Eliot, William F. Buckley Jr., Ray Bradbury, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Charlton Heston, Nikolai Tolstoy, Wendell Berry, Richard Nixon, and Herbert Hoover, among many others. In addition, there are letters to less famous but no less significant friends, family members, colleagues, students, and ordinary readers of Dr. Kirk’s syndicated column. The volume provides insight not only to substantial autobiographical information, but to the twentieth century’s influential interpreters of American political and culture.
In National Review, Gerald Russello wrote that the publication of this collection of Kirk’s considerable correspondence “it is a great service to American intellectual history generally and to that of conservatism in particular.” The full review can be found here: