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Hillsdale College student makes the case for a statue of William F. Buckley Jr.

Hillsdale College student Thomas Novelly wants to return the favor to National Review’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., for his generous donation to the school of “thousands of the columns, speeches, and articles he had written over the years.”

He wants to erect a monument on Hillsdale’s “Liberty Walk,” known for its statues, in his honor.

We have statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. We have a statue of a Civil War soldier representing Hillsdale College students who fought in that conflict, and another of Abraham Lincoln. In May, when the class of 2016 graduates, we’ll put up a statue of Frederick Douglass.

We also have a statue of Ronald Reagan, the only statue of Margaret Thatcher in the Western Hemisphere, and a statue of Winston Churchill, holding a cigar in his right hand.

Buckley would be a fitting addition to this group, to commemorate his devotion to America, his dedication to young people, and his love for Hillsdale College.

“Buckley could have been the playboy of the Western world,” Novelly notes historian Lee Edwards as saying in the new documentary The Best of Enemies. “But [he] chose instead to be the Saint Paul of the conservative movement.”

Novelly points out, too, that a statue would celebrate Buckley’s influence on youth:

In 1960, Buckley invited a group of young activists to his family home in Sharon, Conn., to write down a set of principles. The Sharon Statement, as it was called, begins with words that can still inspire: “We, as young conservatives, believe that foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force.”

The Sharon Statement became the founding document of the Young Americans for Freedom. Today, it’s required reading at Hillsdale College. It’s in American Heritage: A Reader, a special compilation of primary documents assembled by our faculty and published for a core course on American history. This big anthology starts with the Mayflower Compact and ends with Reagan’s first inaugural address in 1981 and his speech to the British Parliament in 1982. In between, students encounter the Sharon Statement.

“National Review,” the publication’s mission statement declares, “stands athwart history yelling Stop.”

“A statue of Buckley on the grounds of a college he loved would send a message to the world,” Novelly says, “that Buckley’s ideas remain very much alive, forever standing athwart history.”

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