By Thomas M. Loarie

BOOK REVIEW: A Torch Kept Lit—A look at the 20th Century thru the eyes of America’s undisputed Godfather of Modern Conservativism

May 20, 2019
Column: CEO Learnings

William Buckley, Jr. is considered to be the “undisputed godfather of modern American conservativism.” He was on the national stage for 50 years as the founder and publisher of the National Review, which is published semi-monthly; and also as the TV host who had the longest-running public affairs show in television history, Firing Line (33 years; 1504 episodes). The program featured influential public figures in the United States culled from the fields of politics, religion, literature and academia. They were interviewed about the ideas and issues of the day. The views of Buckley’s guests could sharply contrast or be in strong agreement with Buckley’s, which made Firing Line a popular and engaging—and genuine—discussion show..  

James Rosen, author of A Torch Kept Lit was a Buckley fellow and frequent contributor to The National Review. He is known mostly today as the chief Washington correspondent for FOX News. Rosen has covered the White House, the State Department and reported from Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, the U.S. Supreme Court, nearly all 50 states and 40 foreign countries across five continents.

A Torch Kept Lit, Rosen’s third book, is preceded by Strongman John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate and Cheney One-On-One.

Rosen’s current book (A Torch Kept Lit) uses eulogies written by Buckley for the National Review and provides insights on the period from World War II to Watergate.  

Buckley, a keen observer of people and mannerisms, as well as their role in events uses eulogies to reveal hidden sides, to herald greatness if warranted, and to remind us of why certain people should be remembered as “abject failures or worse still, people.”

Rosen has chosen fifty (out of 250) of what he considers to be the best of Buckley’s eulogies. They cover the great figures of his time – “presidents and prime ministers, celebrities and scoundrels, intellectuals and guitar gods” – as well as close friends and family. Those eulogies which may be of most interest include:

  • Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan
  • From Arts and Letters – Truman Capote, Johnny Carson, Alastair Cook, Milton Friedman, Jerry Garcia, Vladimir Horowitz, John
  • Lennon, Norman Mailer, Elvis Presley, and A. M.Rosenthal
  • Generals, spies and statesmen – Winston Churchill, William Colby, Princess Diana, Allen Dulles, Barry Goldwater, Richard Helms, E.
  • Howard Hunt, Martin Luther King, John Mitchell, Jacqueline Onassis.
  • Friends – Whittaker Chambers, John Kenneth Galbraith, Hume, David Niven
  • Nemeses – Algier Hiss, John Lindsay, Ayn Randy, Nelson Rockefeller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Rosen prefaces each eulogy with background information specific to each subject’s nature and their relationship to Buckley.

A Torch Kept Lit is a good  read. Rosen, through Buckley’s eulogies, provides satisfying insights into the times and people who led us through the late 20th Century.

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Thomas M. Loarie is the CEO of BryoLogyx, a rotating host of THE MENTORS RADIO SHOW, and a senior editorial advisor and columnist for Catholic Business Journal. He may be reached at [email protected]

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