About Gleaves Whitney

Gleaves Whitney is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. He is the Executive Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. He was the Director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies from 2003-2020. Mr. Whitney has written, edited, or contributed to several books, including John Engler: The Man, the Leader & the Legacy, American Presidents: Farewell Messages to the Nation, and the revised edition of Russell Kirk’s The American Cause.

The Swords of the Imagination: Russell Kirk’s Battle With Modernity

By |2021-06-02T20:32:52-05:00June 2nd, 2021|Categories: Conservatism, Essential, Featured, Gleaves Whitney, Imagination, Modernity, Russell Kirk, Timeless Essays|

“Imagination rules the world,” Russell Kirk used to say.[1] He meant that imagination is a force that molds the clay of our sentiments and understanding.[2] It is not chiefly through calculations, formulas, and syllogisms, but by means of images, myths, and stories that we comprehend our relation to God, to nature, to others, and to the self. [...]

“The Pioneers”: Heroic Settlers & American Ideal

By |2020-07-10T09:43:31-05:00July 6th, 2020|Categories: American Republic, American West, Books, Gleaves Whitney, History|

Despite America’s flawed past, despite the fact that previous generations honored some questionable individuals, our history did not unfold solely within the grid of racism. New England pioneers possessed high ideals of justly ordered freedom, and they carried those ideals west, and in “The Pioneers,” David McCullough is on nothing less than a civilizational mission [...]

The Joy of the Liberal Arts in a Pandemic World

By |2020-05-04T17:39:38-05:00May 4th, 2020|Categories: Culture, Education, Gleaves Whitney, Liberal Arts, Liberal Learning|

In a crisis, it is best to balance change and continuity. The liberal arts help us do so by embracing both. On the one hand, they are the anchor-in-bedrock that conserves the best of our culture. On the other hand, they are the wind-in-the-sail that powers us to betterment. I. Accelerating Our Experience of Big [...]

How Can We Form a More Perfect Union in Our Fractious Age?

By |2021-04-22T17:38:38-05:00April 12th, 2020|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Gleaves Whitney, Government, History, Liberal, Politics, Republicans|

From the founding generation to the greatest generation, Americans sought meaning in one or more of the three operating systems that informed Western civilization: Judeo-Christianity, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism. The productive tension among those three operating systems defined the modern age. Three radically different world views—yet we moderns kept them suspended in a three-way polarity. [...]

Is the Current Crisis Really “Unprecedented”?

By |2020-09-04T15:53:46-05:00March 30th, 2020|Categories: American Republic, Coronavirus, Economics, Gleaves Whitney, Politics|

In our age of clickbait and hyperbole, people call things “unprecedented” that are not unprecedented at all. Public officials shamelessly brag that the nation’s recent economic growth is unequaled. (It’s not.) Broadcasters breathlessly report that today’s anxiety over the stock market is unheard of. (Actually the number of suicides after the Crash of 1929 was [...]

The COVID-19 Crisis: The Need to Balance Public Health & Economic Stability

By |2020-03-28T19:24:05-05:00March 28th, 2020|Categories: Coronavirus, Donald Trump, Gleaves Whitney, Presidency|

Who’s right, the public health officials or the economists? That’s the question we are tempted to ask. But in this pandemic, it’s the wrong question. Both sides are right. Franklin D. Roosevelt had his Great Depression. George W. Bush had his Great Recession. And Donald J. Trump has his Great Pandemic. Over the past weeks, [...]

Coronavirus Reveals America’s Mood

By |2020-03-28T19:25:22-05:00March 25th, 2020|Categories: Coronavirus, Culture, Gleaves Whitney, History, Morality|

As coronavirus fatalities multiply these days—as COVID-19 leaves our bodies sick and makes our spirits sick at heart—I find myself asking how similar the mood today is to that of the West during the 1889-1890 flu pandemic. One of the world’s worst plagues occurred in 1889-1890. The so-called Russian flu is of particular interest to [...]

Socrates and Free Government

By |2021-04-22T17:56:29-05:00July 10th, 2019|Categories: Apology, Gleaves Whitney, History, Plato, Socrates, Stephen Tonsor series, Timeless Essays|

A free government is only sustainable if citizens can govern themselves. Socrates patiently revealed, through conversations that held a mirror up to fellow citizens, that they did not sufficiently understand such basic concepts as justice, piety, virtue, truth, and goodness when applied to themselves. Yet they presumed to govern others? Today’s offering in our Timeless [...]

The Fusionist Mind of Stephen Tonsor

By |2019-05-28T23:55:18-05:00May 28th, 2019|Categories: Character, Conservatism, Gleaves Whitney, History, Stephen Tonsor series|

Given that human beings’ aspirations are framed by limitations, there will always be a dynamic tension between God and man, faith and reason, the absolute and relative, the universal and the particular, unity and diversity, Jerusalem and Athens, liberty and order. Though the work is never finished, historian Stephen J. Tonsor III entered into this [...]

A Meditation on the Mind and Task of the Christian Humanist

By |2021-05-19T01:22:38-05:00December 24th, 2018|Categories: Christian Humanism, Gleaves Whitney|

The Christian humanist understands this: that human beings are not Homo sapiens, not wise; but they are Homo in medio, “in the middle of things.” Thus, it falls to us to mediate between the many polarities that define our existence. The Christian humanist ponders these polarities as already set out in the creation story. In [...]

Decadence and Its Critics

By |2021-05-19T01:24:10-05:00August 12th, 2018|Categories: Civil Society, Civilization, Conservatism, Culture, Gleaves Whitney, Great Books, Modernity, Timeless Essays, Western Civilization|

If conservatives can pin down the idea of decadence while avoiding shrill tones, they may go far in explaining what it means for a civilization to decline… Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers the opportunity to join Gleaves Whitney as he explores how conservative critics may articulate the standard by which to [...]

The Progeny of Jefferson and Adams

By |2021-04-22T19:09:02-05:00December 27th, 2017|Categories: American Founding, American Republic, Featured, Gleaves Whitney, History, John Adams, Stephen Tonsor series, Thomas Jefferson|

All Americans tend to look at the nation either as disciples of Jefferson or as disciples of Adams: Jefferson told Americans what they wanted to hear; Adams told Americans what they needed to know… I. I was having a beer with a couple of other graduate students. We were looking out onto State Street, enjoying [...]

Is a “Liberal Conservative” an Oxymoron?

By |2021-05-19T01:26:34-05:00November 1st, 2017|Categories: Alexis de Tocqueville, Conservatism, Featured, Freedom, Gleaves Whitney, History, Liberalism, Liberty, Politics, Russell Kirk, Stephen Tonsor series|

The liberal conservative must be discerning. For he believes in freedom as well as in order. He believes in individualism as well as in community. He believes in the equality of all men as well as in hierarchy, natural aristocracy, and excellence… After the trip to Washington, DC, where I thrilled at seeing the U.S. [...]

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