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    The following is adapted from a speech delivered at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar on February 24, 2022, in Naples, Florida.

    When I was researching my biography of economist Thomas Sowell, I kept coming across Sowell’s own descriptions of scholars he admired, and I was often struck by how well those descriptions applied to Sowell himself.

    For example, after the death of Nobel Prize-winning economist George Stigler, who was one of Sowell’s professors at the University of Chicago, Sowell wrote:

    In a world of self-promoting academics, coining buzzwords and aligning themselves on the side of the angels of the moment, George Stigler epitomized a rare integrity as well as a rare intellect. He jumped on no bandwagons, beat no drums for causes, created no personal cult. He did the work of a scholar and a teacher—both superbly—and found that sufficient. If you wanted to learn, and above all if you wanted to learn how to think—how to avoid the vague words, fuzzy thoughts, or maudlin sentiments that cloud over reality—then Stigler was your man.

    And here is Sowell describing another of his professors at Chicago, Milton Friedman:

    [He] was one of the very few intellectuals with both genius and common sense. He could express himself at the highest analytical levels to his fellow economists in academic publications and still write popular books . . . that could be understood by people who knew nothing about economics.

    I’m hard-pressed to come up with better ways than those to describe Thomas Sowell. When I think about his scholarship, that’s what comes to mind: intellectual integrity, analytical rigor, respect for evidence, skepticism toward the kind of fashionable thinking that comes and goes. And then there’s the clarity. Column after column, book after book, written in plain English for general public consumption.

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    George RR Martin really likes wolves. He’s also a fan of old railways, immersive art and Santa Fe. But none of these are the things that first spring to mind when you hear the name of the novelist best known for writing the books that inspired Game of Thrones.

    So who is the real George RR Martin?

    The New Jersey native began writing very young, selling monster stories to children in his neighbourhood for pennies and even doing dramatic readings. In high school, he became a fan of comic books and began collecting. Before long, he was writing fiction for amateur fan magazines.

    His first ever professional sale was made in 1970 at the age of 21, with his story The Hero, published in the February 1971 issue of the sci-fi magazine Galaxy.

    After studying journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois and several years of being a chess director, teacher and writer, Martin started working in Hollywood, where early jobs there included working on Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast at CBS. In the Nineties, he wrote the first volume of his A Song of Ice and Fire book series, which was later adapted into the HBO fantasy epic Game of Thrones.

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    We don’t quite know when Beowulf was written, but, given some of the historical or semi-historical characters in it, it was probably composed in its current form around the 9th century but was created in a different iteration, passed along via oral storytelling, centuries before. It’s the tale of a hero, Beowulf, who slays the monster Grendel and its mother before becoming a wise ruler that, in his later years, sacrifices himself to defeat a dragon that threatens his kingdom. It’s a story of bravery, heroism, glory, and wise leadership. 

    Men in our society don’t have the same opportunities to earn what they have with blood and iron rather than gold. Consumerism, meekness, and conformity are the defining facets of our society, not the desire for glory and celebration of bravery that define the culture in Beowulf.

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