Sad news today. Paul Weyrich passed away. Here’s part of the news release:
Paul M. Weyrich, 66, who helped found the Heritage Foundation and at one time was one of Washington’s most visible conservatives, died this morning. At his death, he was president and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
Heritage announced this morning: “Paul M. Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and first president of The Heritage Foundation, died this morning around 1 a.m. He was 66 years old. Weyrich was a good friend to many of us at Heritage, a true leader and a man of unbending principle. He won Heritage’s prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Award in 2005. Weyrich will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, including son Steve, who currently works at Heritage.”
Paul Weyrich was a conservative in the true sense of the word: a man who drew from the enduring principles, most of them rooted in his deep faith in God. Mr. Weyrich was a deacon in the Melkite Church, an office he faithfully served in gratitude to His Savior whom he now sees face to face. I saw this in a visit with him last January. I attended the March for Life in Washington, DC and called Mr. Weyrich for an appointment to see him. He graciously consented and we talked for over an hour. He invited me to address his legendary Wednesday afternoon luncheon and tell his audience about AOI, which I did.
I’ve admired Mr. Weyrich’s missives for years. He was a clear thinker and simple writer. Mr. Weyrich possessed unflagging independence. He was a conservative, but not necessarily a Republican, and when the Republicans adopted the statist principles of cultural liberalism, he fought against that too.
What really caught my eye however, was an essay he wrote on the failure of conservative political reform. Politics can’t affect the moral and spiritual renewal of culture he argued, and although the precepts of classical liberalism (Weyrich was a Kirkian conservative, that is, he understood religion is the ground of culture) held back some of the moral corrosion of self-centered liberalism, liberals had largely won the culture war. He devoted the remainder of his life towards working for moral (read religious) renewal.
What impressed me was that he had a vision that stretched forward at least forty years. I had heard he was sick, but the full extent of his suffering wasn’t evident until I met him. He had both legs amputated, yet his mind was one of the sharpest I have ever encountered. We talked about this moral renewal in our conversation. I could see his love of America, and even when lesser men might have given up, or at least faded into a quiet retirement, he remained determined to work. And this great love of country, despite it’s failures and corruption, was grounded first in a love of the neighbor. This I saw by the graciousness he expressed as we talked.
I will miss him. I felt that our first meeting was the start of a friendship. Sometimes you have encounters with people that, at the time, are pleasant but not enduring. Other times you have encounters you come back to again and again and realize your were in the presence of a gifted and special man. Mr. Weyrich was such a man. May his memory be eternal.