The work of a statesman is to identify a problem that no one else has seen and courageously step forward to fix it, said the author of the book “Gateway to Statesmanship.”  

John Burtka is the president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, commonly known as “ISI,” an organization cofounded by William F. Buckley Jr. that promotes conservative thought on college campuses by teaching the core ideas behind the free market, the American Founding, and Western civilization. Burtka spoke on “The Kevin Roberts Show” about the issue of statesmanship and bringing honor to the world of politics.  

He said that 10 years ago, conservatives were more accepted in the mainstream but that they acted as a “pet conservative,” an oddity whose only purpose was to go on talk shows and newspapers and editorialize their “strange” traditionalist positions.  

Currently, the “pet conservative” has been all but lost in big news stations and publications, he said. This is partly because the “mainstream” has become far more left-leaning. 

Despite this, Burtka believes America’s situation is surprisingly better than it was. “I actually feel better about America’s position today than I did four years ago,” he commented. “And to some extent, that’s because things are worse than they were four years ago.” 

He reasoned that the world has become so hostile to conservatism, it actually empowers conservatives to fight back. 

The solution to conservatives’ political estrangement is leaders with moral clarity. Burtka said that great leaders “transcend their political moment and they unite the common people towards more permanent ends than politics.”  

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts asked the author what America’s biggest downfall is. Burtka responded that the U.S. has a “spiritual problem.” He said in order to fix the issue, great leaders need to move society closer to “God, Himself.” This, he said, leads a society to greatness. 

Political leaders need to unite everyone toward a higher end, he said, and that ultimate end is God.  

Burtka pointed to profound moral leaders of the past as a guide, especially Cicero, the ancient Roman philosopher and statesman. 

“Cicero describes what he calls a shortcut to greatness,” the ISI president explained. In brief, Burtka said that shortcut is to “fake it till you make it.”   

“Start dressing like that person [you want to become] and start talking like them,” Burtka explained. “Start reading the things that they would be reading. … Start surrounding yourself with people that are virtuous, … because the reality is that you sort of almost have to trick yourself.” 

He expressed hope in the America of today because he sees many patriots across the country as “bastions of light,” and those bastions are “fed up” with the path the U.S. is on and are ready for change. “I think your everyday American is ready for something new.” 

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