Speechez, Getcher Speechez Here

Four for the price of one:
  • Tony Snow at the CUA commencement.
    American culture likes to celebrate the petulant outcast, the smart-aleck with the contempt for everything and faith in nothing. Snarky mavericks. The problem is these guys are losers. They have signed up for an impossible mission. Because they’ve decided they’re going to create all the meaning in their lives. They’ve either decided that no moral law exists or they will be the creator, the author of those laws. Now one road leads to complete and total anarchy. Life is solitary, nasty, brutish and short. The other is to insanity, since it requires playing God. We know in our hearts, intuitively, from our first years as children, that the universe unfolds with a discernable order and that moral laws, far from being convenient social conventions, are firm and unalterable. They predate us, they will survive us. Rather than admitting our weakness a lot of times, we just decide we’ll try to get by. And maybe rather than giving God credit, we’ll try to look for a cheap substitute.
    Walk into a bookstore, you’ll know what I mean. The shelves are groaning underneath the trendy tomes promising salvation — medicine balls, herbs, purges, all sorts of weird stuff. In politics, there’s a variant that elevates government to the status of God. It says that it is the source of love. It ought to be the recipient of your tithes, but government, while it does pursue compassionate ends, cannot be loving and personal. It treats all of us as completely equal rather than uniquely divine.
    The point is you can’t escape the question of God and you can’t escape the question of commitments. When it comes to faith, I’ve taken my own journey. You will have to take your own. But here’s what I know. Faith is as natural as the air we breathe. Religion is not an opiate, just the opposite. It is the introduction to the ultimate extreme sport. There is nothing that you can imagine that God cannot trump. As Paul said “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And once you realize that there is something greater than you out there, then you have to decide, “Do I acknowledge it and do I act upon it?” You have to at some point surrender yourself. And there is nothing worthwhile in your life that will not at some point require an act of submission. It’s true of faith and friendship.
  • The Prez. at St. Vincent's college. As the anchoress notes, both speeches are notable also for what they don't talk about: anything partisan.
  • Fred Thompson at the Lincoln Club of Orange County. Bob Novak wrote a column claiming this speech didn't go over, but everyone I've talked to (by which I mean emailed) begs to differ. Apparently some in the room couldn't hear him because of a bad mic, but those who heard him loved it.
  • Harvey Mansfield's Jefferson Lecture. See discussion of it (with links to more discussion) here and here. It's about thumos, or spiritedness, or the love of honor, or as Mansfield defines it,
    a part of the soul that makes us want to insist on our own importance
    and its relationship to politics. I have to think about it further, but on a preliminary reading, I liked a couple of things. First, his opening distinction between politics and political science:
    How important is he, how important are we? This is the central question in politics. Politics is about who deserves to be more important: which leader from which party with which ideas. Politics assumes that the contest for importance is important; in a grander sense it assumes that human beings are important. Political science today avoids this question. [snip] The focus is on the benefits you get—what, when, and how. It ought to be on the who—on who you think you are and why you are so important as to deserve what you get. Poet (speaking broadly of all literature) and philosophers have the answer or at least address the question; science does not.

Which is why it's so darn boring. It cuts all the freedom out. More to say on that speech in another post, perhaps, but it's worthy of R-ing TWT.