ON-Lion Letter

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) was one of the most-influential figures in American public life from the Civil Rights era to the War on Terror.  His writing, activism, and connections to people of power in religion, politics, and culture secured a place for himself and his ideas at the center of recent American history -- including as editor of First Things, supported since its founding by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

According to Randy Boyagoda's new book Richard John Neuhaus:  A Life in the Public Square, Neuhaus is comparable to William F. Buckley, Jr., and John Kenneth Galbraith.  Neuhaus, Buckley, and Galbraith were all willing controversialists and prodigious writers adept at cultivating or castigating the powerful, while advancing lively arguments for the virtues and vices of the ongoing American experiment.  But unlike Buckley and Galbraith, who have always been identified with singular political positions on the right and left, respectively, Neuhaus' life and ideas placed him at the vanguard of events and debates across the political and cultural spectrum.

For instance, alongside Abraham Heschel and Daniel Berrigan, Neuhaus co-founded Clergy Concerned About Vietnam in 1965.  Forty years later, Boyagoda recounts, Neuhaus was the subject of a New York Review of Books article by Garry Wills that cast him as a Rasputin of the far right, exerting dangerous influence in both the Vatican and the Bush White House.

Boyagoda is an associate professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

His Richard John Neuhaus examines Neuhaus' multi-faceted life and reveals what made him tick and why.

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