Jon Utley, the publisher of American Conservative and one of the most dedicated and principled pro-freedom and antiwar activists in the nation, celebrated his 80th birthday last month. Hundreds of folks gathered at D.C.’s Metropolitan Club to hear him speak about his life and to hear tributes from a dozen speakers ranging from Human Events publisher Allan Ryskind, to Dan McCarthy, to Fran Griffin. (The event was sponsored by the Committee for the Republic.)
Jon was born in the Soviet Union in 1934. His mother was Freda Utley, a bestselling author who helped awaken Americans to the Soviet peril in the 1940s and beyond. Ms. Utley also wrote one of the first books published in America on the horrendous sufferings in postwar Germany – “The High Cost of Vengeance,” published by Regnery in 1949, available at this link.
His father, Arcadi Berdichevsky, was murdered in Stalin’s Gulag in 1938. Return to the Gulag, a film on his father’s fate, has been shown on PBS and on other venues around the nation. Reason.com described the movie: “In 2004, Utley embarked upon a search to learn of his father’s fate. This documentary traces Utley’s journey through former labor camps and cities in northern Russia and his final uncovering of the horrible truth at the dreaded camp city of Vorkuta within the Arctic Circle.” You can watch the 28-minute documentary here.
Jon has been in the forefront of the antiwar movement since 1990, when he spearheaded a group to oppose George H.W. Bush’s war against Iraq. He has been a rare voice of reason and grace in conservative circles, patiently pointing out how foreign warring was destroying American freedom – as well as wreaking pointless havoc abroad. He has also been a generous supporter of groups ranging from the Future of Freedom Foundation to Antiwar.com, where his columns continue to trounce bloodthirsty politicians of all stripes.
Jon has always been kind in his comments and encouragement on my writing. Some years ago, I saw that he was heading to an ACLU awards dinner that featured some fashionable left-wing keynoter who didn’t seem truly concerned with freedom. I asked why he was going to the ACLU event.
Jon replied, “So that somebody will care when government agents take us away.”
Hearing that line from someone whose father vanished in the Gulag makes it impossible to forget.
Happy birthday, Jon, and thanks for all you’ve done for freedom for 60+ years!