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Jeane Kirkpatrick (1926-2006)

One of the great minds and shaping forces of American political thought, straddling two centuries, was this Duncan native of modest background. Historian Steve Byas was also born in Duncan. He recalled how Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick later revealed that she had developed a keen early sense of opposing interpretations of historical events. After studying “The War Between the States” in her fifth grade Duncan school history class, her family moved to Illinois. There, the school was studying “The Civil War.”


Kirkpatrick excelled throughout a student career that included Stephens and Barnard Colleges, as well as Columbia University, where she earned her doctorate in political science. Like many other Oklahomans, Kirkpatrick was a longtime Democrat who grew disaffected with that political party’s progressive drift in the 1960s and 1970s, and migrated to the Republican Party. She, however, blossomed into one of conservatism’s most articulate philosophical champions.


While still a Democrat, she accepted Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s 1980 invitation to serve as his campaign’s national security adviser. When Reagan won election, he named her U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, which she remained from 1981-1985. She delivered a ringing 1984 speech, a Democrat still, at the Republican Presidential Convention. It helped codify an epochal, nationalist socio-political philosophy that not only re-elected Reagan, but eventually carried Donald Trump to the White House.


Their liberal opponents, Kirkpatrick famously thundered, “always blame American first” and were “ashamed to speak of America as a great nation.” A stalwart Cold Warrior during what Democratic Presid