One of the capstones of the Federalist Society National Lawyer’s Convention is the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture. The namesake of the lecture was a conservative lawyer and political commentator, and the wife of former Solicitor General Ted Olson. Barbara Olson was tragically murdered on 9/11 onboard American Airlines Flight 77, which was flown into the Pentagon. The first Olson lecture was delivered by Ted Olson in November 2001, barely two months after the horrific terrorist attacks. Later addresses were given by Judge Robert Bork, Justice Scalia, Chief Justice Roberts, Attorney General Mukasey, and many other leading jurists. I have attended every Olson lecture since 2008, and have witnessed many moving tributes to Barbara, and the important causes she believed in.
The Olson lecture at the 2023 Convention will always stands out in my memory. The speech was delivered by Bari Weiss of The Free Press. I’ll admit, when I first saw her name on the schedule, I was a bit confused. Bari is not a lawyer, not a member of the Federalist Society, and not a conservative. Yet, my confusion quickly dissipated. Bari delivered a rousing, timely, and penetrating speech. Bari spoke to our current moment, including the conflict in Israel and attempts to destroy our own civilization. She formed a common kinship with those she disagrees with–especially a FedSoc crowd. And she connected with everyone in that room. At the end, the room was silent. You could hear a Madison lapel pin drop. When Bari concluded, the standing ovation lasted for nearly ninety seconds. (It was the longest one I could remember following an Olson lecture.)
Bari has posted the text of her remarks, titled “You Are the Last Line of Defense” on The Free Press. If you haven’t already subscribed you should–I did.
Here is an excerpt, but I encourage you to read–or better yer, listen to–the entire speech: