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Breaking the Sound of Silence: Through the Free Exchange of Ideas

a live and streamed presentation on Thursday, April 28 from 7:30-9PM

by Steven Sutton, Vice President of Development at LI

Prior to joining the Leadership Institute, Steven Sutton was a Chief of Staff in the House of Representatives for more than 14 years.

He became a start-up specialist, as he set-up the Congressional offices of four different incoming freshmen Congressmen.  First was Peter Torkilson of the North Shore of Massachusetts.  Then came Frank Riggs from California’s Napa Valley.  Third was Lee Terry from Omaha, Nebraska, and most recently John Kline from just south of Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

As Chief of Staff, Steven set-up their offices, hired their staffs, and managed and directed the operations of their Washington and district offices.  In addition, he helped them get re-elected, directing their campaign strategies, messages, and voter contact programs.

He has also managed numerous political campaigns from city council to U.S. Congress, specializing in challenger campaigns.

Steven is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.

An exerpt from the Leadership Institute:

Ideas, Actions, Consequences


The proposition, "Ideas Have Consequences," has attained talismanic status with young conservatives. I would not be surprised to learn that some budding conservative, having adopted it as his mantra, now sits quietly several minutes each day, contemplating those three words.

From time to time I venture to question young conservatives who have used, in writing or in speech, the refrain ideas have consequences. Alas, even if they know it is the title of a book by Richard M. Weaver, the great majority of those who use the refrain have never held in their hands any book by Weaver.

What then accounts for the frequency of the references? It is, I believe, a manifestation of hubris. The young person of conservative inclination, possessed of a growing vocabulary and having gained some familiarity with conservative writings, readily concludes he is now capable of elevated thoughts beyond the reach of all but a tiny elite.

Perhaps he finds, as I first did twenty-five years ago, the praise of Richard Weaver in The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk. But more likely he reads the magical title in a conservative journal. If the fascination with those three words merely increased the sense of self-worth among young conservatives, it would do little harm to the conservative cause. Unfortunately, the temptation is often overpowering to take the words literally.

If ideas, in and of themselves, really do have consequences, then being right, in the sense of being correct, is sufficient. If you know you are right, particularly if you believe you can prove you are right, then your ideas inevitably will prevail.

For a young person with intellectual aspirations, this is heady stuff. He concludes he need no longer work with mere mortals in their ordinary plane of existence. He feels elevated above them; he knows that they will eventually conform to his ideas. Thousands of young conservatives, caught up in the delight of thinking deep thoughts, fancy themselves young Platos. In a way they are, as shall be explained below. But the world does not treat them as they expect and as they believe they deserve. Public policy battles, for example, do not often turn on the question of who is probably right.

Confronted with the failure of his ideas to have their merited consequences, many a young conservative becomes embittered. Some, in the words of the late Dr. Warren Nutter, "retreat to the citadel to save the books." Others become opportunists and quiet cynics. With great inner agony, some resign themselves to impotence in a world that does not function as it "should." Too few discover how to make their ideas effective.

For a number of reasons, it would not be fair to blame Richard Weaver for the problems associated with his magically titled book. He was a professor of rhetoric, which can be defined as ideas artfully presented. A master rhetorician, Weaver knew full well that ideas do not necessarily have consequences.

Although it is dangerous to suggest how deceased persons would respond to current questions, I am confident Weaver would affirm that "Ideas Have Consequences" is a rhetorically contracted enthymeme, an enthymeme being a syllogism with one of the elements missing but understood.

Expanding Weaver's enthymeme, we can get the following syllogism:

  • Ideas can motivate people to act
  • Actions have consequences
  • Therefore ideas can have consequences

Without understanding Weaver's true meaning, some conservatives often give his three words a dangerously misplaced, almost religious devotion. A noble confidence in the truth of their ideas can lure them into the voluntary paralysis of a life of contemplation.