By Richard Vedder
A colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute, Jeane Kirkpatrick, died last night. She was a great woman, a person of enormous personal integrity and strength of character, who also had a nice sense of humor. She will be missed.
Prof. Kirkpatrick was best known for serving as Ronald Reagan's strong-willed but effective Ambassador to the United Nations, or for her marvelous talk to the Republican Convention in, I believe, 1984, where she lamented the "San Francisco Democrats" that had made her disillusioned with her own political party (the Democratic Party). She was a quinessential Reagan Era Cold Warrior, one of a small but hardy band of visionary and principled political leaders who contributed mightily to America winning the Cold War.
But I like Ambassador Kirkpatrick for two other reasons. One, she was intellectually honest, and said what she thinks. That is an increasingly rare commodity these days, and many in the academy engage in self-censorship, afraid to say what they think is right, for fear of offending someone. The tyranny of political correctness has robbed the academy of some of its greatest strength, its intellectual diversity. Jean Kirkpatrick never suffered from self doubt or peer intimidation. Second, even as she grew more frail, in her mid 70s she considered it important to meet with students and teach classes, which she did, sharing her wisdom with the rest of the world. She thought teaching was an important responsibility, and passing on the wisdom of one generation to the next to be a noble calling. I am privileged to have had a few good conversations myself with her. She was a wonderful colleague, and will be greatly missed.