You’ve been with The American Conservative since 2016, and you’ve risen from Director of Development to Vice President of Development to Executive Director. How did you start working at TAC, and what does your latest position entail?
My first job out of college was in fundraising at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), an organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr. to promote conservative ideas on campuses around the country. Part of my work was to raise money for young writers to participate in journalism fellowships at conservative media outlets. As I began to read the various publications where our students were placed, The American Conservative immediately captivated my attention. While I would certainly consider myself a conservative, I was tired of hearing the same old talking points day in and day out. The American Conservative provided something different. It was a true intellectual community where an eclectic mix of traditionalists, paleoconservatives, libertarians, and even a few progressives, engaged in vigorous debate and discussion on subjects ranging from American foreign policy to strategies for preserving the fabric of local communities.
I recently started a new role at The American Conservative as Executive Director. In this position, I will continue to oversee fundraising for the organization, manage the business and operations departments, work to build partnerships with like-minded organizations, and collaborate with our Editor to provide a strategic vision for the organization as a whole, which includes conferences, lectures, and events.
According to its website, The American Conservative believes “in constitutional government, fiscal prudence, sound monetary policy, clearly delineated borders, protection of civil liberties, authentically free markets, and restraint in foreign policy mixed with diplomatic acuity.” Which of these ideas are you most passionate about, and why?
While all these ideas are pertinent to the political challenges of our day, I am most passionate about promoting a restrained foreign policy that is applied through the practice of prudence and grounded in a principled realism. For me, George Washington’s Farewell Address and John Quincy Adams’ maxim that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own,” provide a defense and vision for such an approach to international affairs.
Were you first exposed to some of these concepts at Hillsdale, and how has your philosophy evolved since you’ve left college?
When I was at Hillsdale, I didn’t really get interested in political philosophy until I took a course on Aristotle with Dr. Arnn during the fall of my senior year, which served as a catalyst for my work at ISI and now at The American Conservative. Only after graduating in 2012 did I really take a deep dive into authors like Alexis de Tocqueville, Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and Robert Nisbet, among others, and develop a robust appreciation for the relationship between politics and culture.
Has my philosophy evolved since leaving Hillsdale? On a theological level, I was an Evangelical as an undergraduate and even attended a Reformed seminary in France for graduate school. In 2016, however, my wife and I were received into the Eastern Orthodox Church, and we couldn’t be happier with our decision. In that sense, my understanding of the world is far more sacramental than it was at Hillsdale.
On a political level, I am now much more aware of the connection between big military and big government. As I’ve argued on the pages of The American Conservative, “the War State of Woodrow Wilson begat the 20th century administrative state, and forever centralized our political life: In short, a big military always precedes and necessitates big government. Americans will never restore limited, constitutional government unless we return to a more restrained, prudent, and realistic foreign policy espoused by our founding fathers, as well as the conservative intellectual tradition.”
What book is on your nightstand right now?
Two books are on my nightstand at the moment: Patrick Deneen’s latest, Why Liberalism Failed, and Barry Posen’s Restraint.
As a Hillsdale student, you double majored in French and Christian Studies. How have those majors prepared you for what you do today?
As a prospective student at Hillsdale, Dr. Westblade told me that I shouldn’t worry about my major, but rather find what I love to study and immerse myself in those subjects. I was passionate about theology and French literature in college, and I learned how to think, write, and speak in those classes. In that sense, those majors prepare me for what I do every day at The American Conservative.
On a practical level, however, the best leadership experience that I received at Hillsdale came from serving on the executive board of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. From crafting a mission statement to recruiting new members to planning large events to setting a budget to managing interpersonal relationships, both inside the fraternity and outside with the wider campus, nearly every aspect of running a successful organization can be practiced and learned in the small microcosm of fraternity or sorority at Hillsdale College.
Your last article for TAC was a book review of The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest. You write: “A true conservative is a woman or man who shows deference to the past, yet exercises the prudence necessary to reject the ugly and cling to what is beautiful.” What are some of the beautiful things conservatives should cling to in everyday life?
Conservatives are often characterized in the media as people who are opposed to everything — from healthcare to the environment to social justice. Obviously, there is always a time and place for reaction, and I am thankful for those who defend our principles with courage. However, I think the future success of conservatism in America depends on us casting a positive vision of what we ought to conserve.
One principle aim of conservatism should be to preserve and strengthen the local communities where individuals can flourish. To do this, we must understand and appreciate the “variety and mystery of human existence,” as Russell Kirk beautifully put it, and understand that different communities will have different habits and mores. Portland will never be Grand Rapids and Omaha will never be San Francisco — thank God!
On a day-to-day basis, I try to cherish both high culture and local folk culture. From the Viennese Waltz to the Fourth of July parade; from preserving historic architecture to tailgating at a college football game. It means creating spaces where people can unplug and enjoy genuine hospitality, regardless of their political affiliation. It means volunteering in your local community, and understanding that the path towards “saving the country,” begins by reviving communal bonds one family, one block, one neighborhood, and one city at a time. As my patron saint, John of Kronstadt, wonderfully wrote, “Small things everywhere lead to great ones.”