Harry V. Jaffa's Gift
Last Friday found me in Washington at the dinner honoring Jaffa (he is now 93 years young). The fine event was run by the Claremont Institute, under the good eyes of President Brian Kennedy, and Chairman Tom Klingenstein. Matthew Spalding acted not only as MC, but also said a few good words about the Old Man. Kennedy, Arkes, Podhoretz, Kesler, and I were to say something for no longer than seven minutes each in his honor. They were fine short speeches honoring his great mind, and the things for which it should be known. I merely told him that I was grateful for his patience, for his ability to wait out--and keep talking to, if not with--those of us who were unworthy and unschooled. I thanked him for his generosity, for inviting us into his mind, into his conversation. I thanked him for his clarity. I told him that until I met him I had never actually seen a mind work, I had never seen a man think. With him that is all I saw. Since then I try to imitate this rare excellence, and only rarely am I able to. I thanked him for showing us how to get inside the thing--Plato, Shakespeare, equality, Churchill, Lincoln, justice, Twain, Aquinas, liberty--instead of talking around it and about it. I told him how me and my friends--which friendships he made both possible and good--have been disposed, since we met him, to do this our whole lives, and how this is because of him, that he is the cause of it. I wanted to say to him that he showed us how to establish a habit of freedom of thought necessary to rise to the level of equality that the American mind demanded, but I do not think I was able to get that far because my heart overflowed with gratitude. So I just thanked him again and told him that I loved him.