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Stan Evans – Conservative Prodigy

Stan Evans Montage NRO and Conservative Caucus

As we celebrate the life of M. Stanton “Stan” Evans today, much will be made of Stan’s incisive wit, his many contributions to the thinking of the modern conservative movement, including drafting The Sharon Statement, and his scholarship on the Cold War, and communist influence in American politics, culture and government in the post-World War II era.

Any one of those would be a worthy legacy by which we might remember a friend for a life well-lived, to have accomplished all of them puts Stan Evans among a short list of the 4-5 most important heroes of the conservative movement, right there alongside of Buckley, Goldwater and Helms.

But as the tributes flow in and we prepare to remember Stan at 1:30 pm today at Saint John the Apostle Catholic Church, 101 Oakcrest Manor Dr. NE, Leesburg, VA and tomorrow, March 13, at a memorial event in his honor at 11:00 am at the Heritage Foundation, one important aspect of Stan Evans’ life has been missed in the many tributes that have come forth since his passing.

And that is at what a young age Stan began his remarkable career and undertook some of his most important work.

Let me take you back to a day almost exactly 53 years ago today – March 7, 1962 – the day Young Americans for Freedom hosted “A Conservative Rally for World Liberation from Communism” before a sellout crowd of 18,500+ at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The Madison Square Garden Rally, which was an above the fold story in The New York Times the next day, would be my nomination for the day the modern-day conservative movement had its public debut.

This huge media event was put on and largely appealed to youngsters – Don Shaftoe and David Franke (whose remembrances of Stan also appear on CHQ today) were in their early twenties; I was the Executive Secretary of Young Americans for Freedom and was the old man at 28. Marvin Liebman, whose small PR firm housed YAF, was the adult supervision.

We gathered these thousands of young people in liberalism’s East coast citadel, and gave national exposure to its featured speakers, L. Brent Bozell Jr., conservative Republican senators Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond, and John Tower, and to honorees “for contributions to conservatism and the nation,” such as Sen. Thomas J. Dodd (D-CT), novelist John Dos Passos, President Herbert Hoover, Prof. Richard M. Weaver, actor John Wayne, columnist David Lawrence, newspaper publisher Eugene C. Pulliam, and newspaper editor M. Stanton Evans.

Stan Evans was all of 27 years old at the time he joined three United States Senators, one of America’s most acclaimed authors and one of Hollywood’s most popular film stars on the stage, but he deserved the recognition.

In 1962, at the age of 27, when most people are still trying to define their life’s work, Stan Evans was a national opinion leader. The year before, at age 26, he had become editor of The Indianapolis News, the nation's youngest editor of a metropolitan daily, and his influence through his widely read editorials was national in scope.

I should add that had it not been for Stan Evans I wouldn’t have been Executive Secretary of Young Americans for Freedom and in New York to help organize the Madison Square Garden event. Stan’s influence was such that he was asked to approve new hires at YAF. Despite the fact that I had a recommendation from someone Stan had crossed swords with, I was hired and set on the path that led me to learn the direct marketing business, found my direct marketing companies and have a 50+ year career in conservative politics at the national level.

Perhaps the power of that March evening back in 1962 stuck with Stan and later inspired him to found the National Journalism Center to inculcate his philosophy of searching for the truth, no matter where it led, in a new generation of conservative journalists and writers. Or maybe he just enjoyed the company of young people and their enthusiasm for ideas, but that, like many other questions, is something I regret I never took the opportunity to ask Stan about.

Although in 1962 most of Stan Evans’ greatest work lay ahead of him; more than a decade of newspaper editorials and particularly his scholarly books on the Cold War and communism, it is that youthful zest for framing the argument and for selling conservatism through the written and spoken word that to me is Stan Evans’ greatest legacy to the conservative movement, and for which I shall always remember him and cherish his friendship.

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