Most readers know the line (attributed to Winston Churchill, I believe), if you’re not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart. And if you are still a liberal at forty, you have no brain. The recent conference at the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale University on Whittaker Chambers reminded me of conservatism’s associations with old age (not to mention how far down I need to scroll to choose the year of my birth when purchasing airline tickets on line). The panels were stocked with figures from a generation even older than I. And the audience seemed to be just as old, according to this report:

I was hoping for a bit of drama, some heckling even, but this was no Tea Party. Merely by appearing at Yale Podhoretz said he was breaking a vow he made years ago never to appear on a university campus, but there was no sign of dissent. The audience filled a smallish lecture hall, maybe 150 people, with only about one in nine or ten of student age. Lots of balding heads and gray hair. Some faces familiar from New Yorker cartoons of plutocrats at the club. Among the students very few WASPS. This did not look like Bill Buckley’s Yale.

On the upside, the Buckley program at Yale appears to be the doing of undergraduate students, whom I assume are young and not part of some Yale effort to recruit the best and brightest from second-career students enrolled at the local community college.

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D. G. Hart is a visiting professor of history at Hillsdale College. After completing his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, he taught at Wheaton College and Westminster Seminary before directing academic programs at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He is the author of several books, including A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State (Ivan R. Dee); The University Gets Religion: Religious Studies and American Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press); and From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelical Protestants and American Conservatism (Eerdmans).


  1. Well, as a current second-career ‘cc’ student, doing what I can to avoid working for the Corporate Behemoth, I’d be happy to be part of the recruitment of “the best and brightest from second-career students enrolled at the local community college.” Where can I, if they’ll let me, sign up?

  2. Another perspective was provided by poet Robert Frost. From “A Further Range” (Ten Mills):
    I never dared be radical when young
    For fear it would make me conservative when old.

  3. I had been thinking about this a bit.

    I think the real issue is that if you aren’t anti-traditionalist at 20 you have no dreams, and if you aren’t traditionalist at 40 you have no soul.

  4. I like Ron Paul’s comment on this topic (often given in front of tremendously large crowds of college students). One of his best lines is based on that old saying, “if you’re not a liberal at 20 you don’t have a heart, and if you’re not a conservative by 40 you don’t have a brain.” To which he replies, “why can’t we have a heart AND a brain?”

  5. Next time you sneer at community colleges, try not to do so in the same sentence in which you commit such an egregious solecism as, “whom I assume are young”.

  6. William, you may want to restrict your own sneering for grammar that is truly egregious. But if you’re teaching at a community college and your students know outrageously bad constructions, u da man.

    BTW, the jab was at Ivies not community colleges.

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