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Experts analyze the life and work of Dr. Russell Kirk

On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, The Institute of World Politics (IWP) hosted a commemoration panel on Dr. Russell Kirk, an intellectual and a leader in the development of modern conservatism. The panel included IWP professor Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz; Dr. Lee Edwards, who has also taught at IWP in the past, and IWP student Matthew J. O’Brien. The panel discussed the life and work of Dr. Kirk and how his work continues to impact society today.

Dr. Chodakiewicz served as the moderator for the panel. He described Dr. Kirk as “one of the greatest American minds” who was able to understand complex writings very well. Dr. Chodakiewicz explained that Dr. Kirk was a Christian gentleman who stood against Communism and defended his conservative beliefs and traditions. Along with being a renowned academic, Dr. Kirk also wrote ghost stories focused on Scottish Gothic culture, in which he gained an interest from his time at the University of St. Andrews, where he was the only American to receive a Doctor of Letters. Dr. Chodakiewicz described the Kirk family as people who supported those in need and were charitable with their time and resources.

Mr. O’ Brien then discussed some of the academic achievements of Dr. Kirk’s career. He noted that Dr. Kirk successfully bridged the gulf between scholars of politics and scholars of law through his work Roots of American Order. In the book, Dr. Kirk outlines ten main points that explain how the law affects society, history, and politics. Dr. Kirk argued that the laws are meant to protect the people from the state and that they are the expression of natural justice. This thought, in turn, constrains the sovereign under the law as well. Mr. O’Brien also discussed an article by Dr. Kirk called We Cannot Separate Christian Morals and the Rule of Law. The article argued that the law has been misused to push a political agenda. He also talked about how when people forget the moral sources of law, then the law can spiral into injustice.

Dr. Edwards continued the discussion about Dr. Kirk’s writings. Dr. Edwards explained how Dr. Kirk’s 1953 book The Conservative Mind gave the conservative name to the movement of individualism. Dr. Kirk was also crucial in founding the leading conservative journal, The National Review. Dr. Edwards explained how Dr. Kirk saw that five cities were crucial to make America: Jerusalem (the moral order), Athens (the political order and democracy), Rome (democratic Senate), London (parliamentary systems), and Philadelphia (the Declaration of Independence). Dr. Kirk also believed that life ought to be lived with honor, charity, and prudence.

Matthew J. O’Brien currently serves as the Director of Research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law. He is currently a student in the Institute of World Politics Executive Master of Arts in National Security Affairs program.

Dr. Lee Edwards is a distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation. Edwards is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books. Edwards also is adjunct professor of politics at the Catholic University of America and chairman of a foundation that dedicated the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2007. Edwards was the founding director of the Institute of Political Journalism at Georgetown University and a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is a past president of the Philadelphia Society and a media fellow at the Hoover Institution. Edwards received a doctorate in world politics from Catholic University as well as a doctor of humane letters degree from Grove City College. He did graduate work at the Sorbonne in Paris. He also holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Duke University.

Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is the current holder of the Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies, which is now here at IWP. He has authored numerous works in both English and Polish. While at the University of Virginia, he edited the Kosciuszko Chair’s bulletin: Nihil Novi. Dr. Chodakiewicz writes weekly columns for popular Polish press and contributes to the SELOUS Foundation internet hub. He translated and edited the correspondence of the Ulam family of Lwów to the mathematician Stanislaw Ulam at Harvard from 1936 until after the Second World War and co-edited a selection of Ronald Reagan’s speeches published as My Vision of America in Polish. His interests include the post-Soviet zone, the Second World War and its aftermath, Europe in the 19th and 20th century, Western civilization and its intellectual tradition, extremist movements in history, conspiracy theory and practice, and comparative civilizations. At IWP, Dr. Chodakiewicz teaches courses on Mass Murder Prevention in Failed and Failing States, Geography and Strategy, and Russian Politics and Foreign Policy. In addition, he leads directed studies.