Journalist Jeff Jacoby Speaks from the Conservative Perspective

On May 10, Jeff Jacoby spoke with Roxbury Latin’s boys and faculty as one of the year’s final Hall speakers. Mr. Jacoby has been an op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe for 25 years; he will tell you he is “the only identifiable conservative writer in a newspaper overwhelmingly staffed by liberal journalists.” Before entering journalism, he briefly practiced law at the prominent firm of Baker & Hostetler, and worked on several political campaigns in Massachusetts. For years, Mr. Jacoby was a political commentator for WBUR, Boston’s National Public Radio affiliate, and hosted “Talk of New England,” a weekly television program. In 1999, he was the first recipient of the Breindel Prize for excellence in opinion journalism, and in 2004 he received the Thomas Paine Award of the Institute for Justice.

These days Mr. Jacoby considers himself politically homeless. A staunchly conservative man who does not see his own ideals reflected in today’s Republican party, he lives in the in-betweens. But he does not feel discouraged; political parties change over time, he told the boys, and our job as a citizen is not to remain loyal to any one “team” over another. It is instead to uphold the values we feel are most important. In Hall, Mr. Jacoby shared three of these values—what he considers the three pillars of conservatism: Humans are not inherently good. Results matter more than intentions. Government does not know best.

These core beliefs have been important to Mr. Jacoby since childhood. The son of a Holocaust survivor and immigrant, Mr. Jacoby was raised to believe that one of the deadliest threats on Earth is a government that is too powerful. It was a regime with too much power, after all, that took his father’s entire family from him in Czechoslovakia. After making a life for himself in the United States, Mr. Jacoby’s father had a deep appreciation for American freedom and a government that stayed out of the daily lives of its citizens. This is ultimately what informed Mr. Jacoby’s understanding of conservative ideals, and it continues to serve as his political framework.

Though Mr. Jacoby does not feel the current leadership of the Republican party is aligned with his idea of conservatism, he ended Hall on a message of hope. He recalled the Republican Party under President Ronald Reagan, and noted that history has shown us that young people can rally around conservative values in a powerful way. He hopes that the same can happen with young people today.