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Sesquipedalian Disquisitions

William F. Buckley Jr. was known for his sizable vocabulary. “Why did you use ‘irenic’ instead of ‘peaceful’” one Firing Line guest inquired? Buckley replied “I wanted the extra syllable.”

Buckley’s mannerisms and prosody were a target for impressions, and both Jim Backus’s Thurston Howell III on “Gilligan’s Island” and Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook in “Hook” owe much to the New England patrician. Robin Williams claimed that both he and Hoffman wanted the pirate’s role in the movie. To settle it, they each had to impersonate WFB — and Williams lost.

But in times of fractured politics and division, perhaps it is better to recall the respectful and intelligent dialog he had with his interlocutors on the long running Firing Line program. Whether the host agreed or disagreed, each guest over the 1505 Firing Line programs filmed between 1966 and 1999 was given a dignified platform and sufficient time to explore serious ideas.

The archivists at the Hoover Institution have digitized these both to make them available to a wider audience and preserve them – Society’s Genome style – for future reference.

Many of these in-depth interviews with presidents, scientists, activists, celebrities and public intellectuals are now available as clips on YouTube or full-length episodes on the Hoover Institution’s website.

Find out More:

Visit the Hoover Library & Archives’ Firing Line collection page; Explore Hoover’s Firing Line collection through the Online Archive of California; and Browse the Library & Archives’ home page.

Bring your own dictionary and stand in awe of what we can store today as digital archive content.

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