The Ingersoll Prizes

On December 8, 1983, in Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, The Ingersoll Prizes were awarded for the first time. Mr. Jorge Luis Borges was the recipient of the T.S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing, and Mr. James Burnham received the Richard M. Weaver Award for Scholarly Letters.

The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, theologian and director of The Rockford Institute/New York-Center for Religion and Society, offered the invocation:

Look with favor, we beseech you Almighty God, upon what we do here. We would award no excellence that is not of your giving. We would acknowledge no creativity that is not also the work of the Creator of all. In honoring these your servants we therefore offer praise to you.


Establish, we pray, the giving of these prizes, that they may be a sign and an encouragement-of a conservatism that contends for all that is of abiding worth; of a liberalism that bespeaks generosity of spirit and hopefulness of purpose; of a radicalism that refuses to settle for anything less than truth.

Bless, then, this company to our good, and bless us to your service. Amen.

Following the invocation, Dr. John A. Howard, president of both The Rockford Institute and The Ingersoll Foundation, stated in his formal welcome:

“Last May at a formal reception in Washington, D.C.’s Meridian House we made known the establishment of The Ingersoll Prizes to a gathering of governmental officers, educators, publishers, executives of cultural organizations, and the news media. President Reagan sent a message of congratulations and good wishes. The Honorable Terrel Bell, Secretary of Education, gave his direct support to the undertaking. What follows is an excerpt from Secretary Bell’s text:

The philosophers who  call us to examine  the  meaning of life, who can distill causes and consequences from the   turbulence   of  history, deserve more recognition than they receive from their contemporaries….Every endeavor which celebrates the accomplishments of such men and women is to be warmly welcomed.

“He enunciated the precise concern which was the genesis of The Ingersoll Prizes. Let me take you back to that be­ ginning. The Ingersoll Milling Machine Company, which will soon celebrate its centennial as one of Rockford’s major manufacturers, established its corporate foundation 35 years ago. Under the thoughtful leadership of Robert Gaylord, Jr., that Foundation supported many organizations, local and national, which in one way or another worked to perpetuate the economic, social, and moral vitality of the American experiment.

“However, as America’s vitality in all three of those dimensions peaked and began to wane rapidly, the corporate leadership and the Foundation’s directors determined to redirect their contributions to other kinds of projects which might help to reverse that downward course. They were intrigued by the thesis repeatedly voiced by The Rockford Institute that it is neither politics nor economics which determines the shape of history, but rather it is the culture, as it forms beliefs and preferences and values and consequently human behavior. And so the Foundation turned to The Rockford Institute for guidance in the deployment of its resources.

“Of the many projects now supported by the Foundation, the program of The Ingersoll Prizes is the largest and the most prominent. And it is fitting that it should be. Each civilization is built upon a specific vision of order and virtue. For a nonauthoritarian society, given the human inclinations toward disorder and dissension, its survival requires that the democratic vision of order and virtue be kept prominent in the minds of the citizens. In our era, the cultural leadership of the West has been blind to this requirement and has enthroned as its models and mentors, scholars and artists and writers of an iconoclastic bent, generally ignoring the creative sources of private and civic inspiration.

“Our purpose in establishing the prizes, then, is both to provide a symbol of abiding public gratitude to authors who address the themes of order and virtue, and to stimulate an ever larger readership for the wisdom which they have made available by their life’s labors.”

Dr. Howard went on to read a portion of a letter sent by Mrs. T. S. Eliot to The Ingersoll Foundation. Mrs. Eliot wrote:

Although sorry not to be with you this evening, except in spirit, I am delighted that Jorge Luis Borges is to receive the first T. S. Eliot Award, so generously conceived by the Ingersoll Foundation in memory of my husband.

Prior to the award presentation, Mr. Leopold Tyrmand, vice-president of The Rockford Institute and executive secretary of The Ingersoll Prizes, summarized the careers of the two honorees. Mr. Tyrmand stated:

“In recent decades, we, believing as we do in the power of letters, were troubled by a suspicion that in literature and the humanities there has been a diminishing endeavor to understand humanness as both destiny and spiritual substance; that writers have, by and large, abandoned their mission. We were inclined to think that the very fate of Western civilization had become contingent on both the rehabilitation and the cultivation of feelings and attitudes forgotten, spumed, or demolished by the modem culture’s submissiveness to fallacious exegeses and brutally unenlightened doctrines. The fundamental worth of ethical norm, grace, and dignity had become, in our view, endangered and — if not rescued — would soon vanish from the grasp of the human imagination. As our attempt to restore to prominence those standards of intellectual integrity and moral elegance, which, in the past, obliged thinkers and writers to assist mankind in understanding itself and its role on this planet, we therefore called The Ingersoll Prizes into being. As we wrote in our initial statement of purpose: ‘The paramount criterion for this recognition will be the creative articulation of permanent values — truth, faith, integrity, reason, conscience, tradition — rendered with merit in works of art or intellect. At this juncture of history, support must be given to those who are willing to devote their labors and gifts of mind to understanding Judeo-Christian standards of ethics as well as America’s incomparable service to mankind in promoting a pluralistic society and the principles of free inquiry. We wish to encourage those creative processes which will reassert the Western concept of freedom from which the American civilization — our common asset — has emerged.’

”We honor tonight two gentlemen whose lifework corresponds with the highest criteria of The Ingersoll Prizes. Mr. Borges symbolizes the complexity and depth of the Western intellectual heritage. A reverence for the past and an understanding of it as the primary agent of both the present and the future have found a most intriguing and poetic expression in his work His is the marvelous universe of meditations unaffected by social turmoil and biological determinism. In a pricelessly spare form, he has synthesized and miniaturized a galaxy of intimate sentiments, careful sensibilities, and some of the subtlest nuances of Western experience and thought. He revived the mystique of tradition and opened it for the scrutiny of the con­ temporary man. These are intensely pursued insights in today’s America, and Mr. Barge’s cognizance is precious. After Kafka, he remains, perhaps, the last practitioner of modem, meticulously updated metaphysics.

“Mr. Burnham, early in life, sought out explanations of social and political mechanisms. His findings and inferences put him at odds with the prevailing orthodoxies. In an era when liberal scholasticism began to impose dogmas on philosophy and politics, severely limited the perspectives of free inquiry, and restricted the notions of social morality to a rigid set of antiempirical prescriptions, Mr. Burnham had the courage to say ‘no’ and incur the ‘Wrath of the rulers of opinion. He produced volumes that enlarged our knowledge of contemporaneity, but paid for the nonconformism of his views with decades of ostracism from official channels of recognition.

“It is a happy occasion that permits us to celebrate the virtues of excellence, and distinction of being true to a principle — as they are embodied in these two men.”

 Mr. Clayton Gaylord, chairman of The Ingersoll Foundation, then made the formal presentations of The Ingersoll Prizes. An essay by Mr. Borges, written exclusively for the Chronicles of Culture, and Mr. Burnham’s address, on the occasion of receiving the award, will appear, respectively, in the March and April issues of this journal. Additionally, an address by Dr. Ronald Berman, chairman of the 1983 Awards Jury, will be published in the May issue.  cc


Lebanon, et alia

This journal is not into politics, and is even less into the business of advising. But as citizens, observers, disciples of post-Humean political skepticism, and admirers of the Orwellian devotion to commonsensicality, we are willing to slightly bend our principle in order to voice some suggestions.

1. Let’s get out of Lebanon. By being there we are serving some untidy interests of the so-called Arab moderates — a highly untrustworthy crowd. Lebanon cannot be preserved as an entity, a state; that should be evident to even the victims of the worst cases of glaucoma. Saudi Arabia (and its most influential friend, who happens to be our Secretary of Defense) promotes its vision of Lebanese “balance,” which is quite an odd one that promotes giving Syria an enormous amount of cash earned in America for conversion into Soviet missiles that can accurately destroy American recon­ naissance planes. Of course, the Saudi princes, known for their sterling honesty and straightforwardness, loudly clamor for a Lebanon free of “all” interventionist forces, including American ones, but this is not what they tell the State Department mavens during their cozy, 12-course noshes in D.C., during which they exhort us not to go but to stay in Lebanon and take on anyone whom they consider no­no for their grubby benefit. All in all, the situation in Lebanon is as politically coherent as the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup and to expect this state of things to be ordered on terms of Aristotelian political logic seems to us to be verging on the grotesque.

2. After leaving Lebanon, we should give all necessary material and financial support and an unswerving loyalty on the international scene to the Lebanese Christians and the Israelis — the only political and military forces that can serve honestly our interests in the area, as their own interests converge with ours. On their successful cooperation rests our ultimate influence in the region. Once the Christian Maronites carve a viable chunk of territory for themselves and establish, with their proven acumen, a functional polity, the moderate Arabs will return to their fold. After all, the Lebanese Christians are Arabs, and they know more about banking and commerce than Bedouin royalties and Saudi sons of the desert. If the Lebanese Druses and Shiites want to associate with Syria, or Khomeini, that’s their business as long as they’re doing it on their own pieces of real estate. Such solutions will involve painful migrations of large numbers of displaced persons, but this would be no more unbearable than what went on in Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

3. Concentrate on Latin America-that is where the Soviet threat to the fundamentals of our foreign policy is most vicious, intricate, and lethal. In the Middle East, the Soviets confront us and the Islamic fanaticism — not our ally, but not theirs either. In the Americas, we con­ front three enemies: virulent anti­Yankeeism (not without some moral legitimacy), endemic social radicalism rife with a gangsterlike terrorist mystique, and powerful Soviet efforts which aim to ruthlessly dominate, orchestrate, and manipulate both nationalism and radicalism against us, our interests, and our value system. Those forces have a hateful and inexorable associate within our own society: the American community of leftist useful idiots who delude them­ selves into imagining that by thwarting our endeavors they help the Latin Ameri­ can masses to achieve liberty and prosperity while, in fact, they help the Soviet quest for global hegemony.

So much for what we think about all that, and which certainly will command no attention among those who decide what should be done. But, having said it, our conscience is clear and we feel much better.      cc         

Tactfulness & Truthfulness

The  entire  liberal  press was deeply disappointed that President Reagan did not lash out at his host in South Korea, President Chun Doo Hwan, for his dictatorial manners and political misbehavior. “His [Reagan’s] speech … contained no hint of criticism of the human rights record of the Chun regime,” whined the Chicago Tribune, a relatively mildly worded reproach when measured against the other howls emitted.

Given the general tone of bitterness and disgust, we imagine that what the amalgamated liberal left would have loved to hear was President Reagan telling President Chun that he is a ruthless butcher, manic tyrant, and a bloody oppressor for keeping some dissidents under house arrest during the visit of the American delegation, preventing anti-American demonstrations, practicing censorship, and for generally behaving like a despicable totalitarian masquerading as an authoritarian. We think that the invectives, though passionately overblown, are not devoid of some point: in our opinion, Mr. Chun is not exactly an ardent practitioner of John Stuart Mill’s political ethics, and we doubt that he holds the New York Times in high esteem. However, we would opt for apprising him of all of his political shortcomings if the liberal media suggests to President Reagan that, upon meeting Andropov in Moscow, he remind his host of some fundamental facts:

 — Mr. Andropov holds an undisclosed number of political prisoners — perhaps hundreds of thousands — in concentration camps and mental hospital wards for no other reason than their beliefs which are at variance with his;

— he tortures them — not by vulgar means of electric shocks, but by means of destabilizing drugs or through forced labor in Arctic conditions without basic food supplies, where the prisoner of conscience is practically doomed to die without a legal sentence and without adverse publicity;

— he suppresses any attempt of free expression by jailing indiscriminately anyone who would conceivably say anything that displeases him;

— and that Mr. Andropov began his career as a secret police thug, was a ruthless bloody butcher, who, in all probability, personally killed people who were innocent of any possible crime in the eyes of any citizen of democratic America whom Mr. Reagan represents.

We suspect that both a New York Times editorial writer and an essayist for The Progressive would respond to such a suggestion in unison by saying: “It’s not that simple … ” That’s exactly why we wholeheartedly endorse Mr. Reagan’s handling of the South Korean visit.    cc