Andrew Beck

2023 Lincoln Fellow

What is your current position?

I am a Partner at Beck & Stone, a brand consultancy I co-founded years ago in New York. I lead the team and consult clients on a daily basis in matters of brand identity, technology, marketing, and culture.

What inspired you to choose this career path?

Working in New York in the 2010s was an exciting, chaotic time. So many industries were intersecting with each other and disrupting themselves. A generalist like me could thrive working in everything from the arts and culture to technology, publishing, public policy and academia. The niches that valued my work and insights the most became the pillar clients of the firm. With the reputation that sprung from our work over the last nine years, we attracted a wider array of clients and talent who were impressed with our culture, being desperate for the level of service and partnership we provide.

What are you currently working on?

Depends on who you ask! We have our hands in quite a lot these days. Working with new clients such as the New College of Florida to brand and launch their online learning program has been very rewarding for the team, as is working with old friends to do new things such as Encounter Books and its Golden Thread Initiative. Sponsoring the Philadelphia Society’s upcoming 60th anniversary meeting and collaborating with them in designing the celebration is something near to my heart. I like to say we are “in the center of the Right” and these projects illustrate where I personally want to be.

How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?

Professionally, at first. When Ryan Williams took over as President of Claremont, he made an effort to make Claremont embrace the digital age and be more relevant to the discussions being had online. They came to Beck & Stone by recommendation for strategic consulting and actualizing those projects. The rest is history.

What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?

Creating The American Mind out of thin air with Matthew Peterson and company: first the brand and website, then its distinctive artwork. I remember being on the phone with Matt, listening to what he wanted to do, ideating, laughing, going down rabbit trails… just a great time. The whole thing came together so well and has been such an enduring success that the genesis of it (and of my friendship with Matt) will always be remembered by me with fondness.

There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?

Claremont is quite special in that it “radicalizes” those who need “radicalizing” and “moderates” those who need “moderating.” The faculty and fellows will hear ideas and “takes” patiently and attempt to reason with you, mentor you, and educate you with minimal judgement. Firsthand I have seen Charles Kesler, Glen Elmers, and Michael Anton demonstrate this aptitude to teach and mentor with some of the young firebrands that Claremont attracts. It is difficult to find that anywhere, in education or anywhere else.

Who would it be, why, and what would you discuss, if you could have a fireside chat with an American Founder, or any great thinker?

I would say George Washington, as he is the father of our nation. The only reason these states reached an agreement to unite as a nation was because Washington agreed to be its executive and commander. He was not so much of a “great thinker” as much as he was simply a good man who his countrymen anointed to lead them. So I would first simply sit and mourn for his nation, weeping bitter tears over how we have erred from his example and counsel. After sensing his discomfort (and perhaps his pity) I would compose myself and simply ask him what I think everyone is wondering in this 21st century: what should we do now?

What qualities do you believe are needed to achieve great leadership in this century and why?

Well let’s take Washington, as I believe he established the pattern for American leadership. He did not set out to be a leader through his superior intellect or his power of persuasion or his strength of arms whereby he could impose his vision. No. He set out to be a virtuous example of the kind of man he wished the ruling class of America to emulate. His persona was that of a European aristocrat but who saw himself as equal to his countrymen. He then let his deeds speak for him. He constantly refined himself through reflection on his own actions and decisions. He was an honorable man because he was a virtuous and humble man. We need these qualities now more than we need brilliant ideas or indomitable willpower.

Do you believe free speech in America is in serious peril? Why?

No, I do not. I believe we have remarkable means of communicating in this day and age. It was remarkable to witness the total failure of the would-be technocrats to control and shape communication in the last few years. Whenever invisible forces that bind people with values must turn to the hard power of policing minutia, you know a system is suffering strain. When the policing fails, the system is next. I am less concerned about the means of communications being curtailed by hard power and more concerned with what it is that is being “freely” communicated under the influence of new invisible forces.

Creativity has many avenues of expression. What is your personal favorite and why? “Creativity” has become a byword for doing activities that are primarily for entertainment or “culture”. There is an abundance of such creativity. It surfaces mostly in what we call “content” on the internet. But creative problem solving, which involves critical thinking, situational awareness, emotional intelligence, and cooperation between many parties, seems to be in short supply. I enjoy collecting rare things and accomplishing rare feats. Solving a brand challenge through design, or a public relations crisis through communications, or an organizational inefficiency through technology—this is where my creativity finds its truest expression and I have experienced the most enjoyment.

Do you see the emergence of Artificial Intelligence as a positive or negative and why?

Positive. It will cheapen what needs to be discounted and raise the value of things that are rare. The “content” I spoke of will become commonplace as it becomes easier to create and thus of little value. But good content? It will become highly prized. Yes there will be plenty of ways that AI-powered fill-in-the-blank can optimize a business, a process, a lifestyle for time, profitability, whatever—but how to take these tools and apply them to specific situations? This strategic decision making, this human ability to critically assess and virtuously act, will be valued above all the tools themselves. It already is.

In this rapidly expanding digital media world do you believe there is still a place for the print version? Why?

A printed magazine or website is an object. A website or blog or email or tweet is not. They are made of pixels, not atoms. And psychologically this is of greater significance to the human mind. It creates a greater connection. One that is not only mental but emotional. People know what The New Criterion smells like and how its paper stock feels. They know its typeface and its cover colors, even if they see a digital manifestation of it. The more we work with printed magazines such The Anglican Way and IM-1776, and how people have latched on to them for their quality niche content and their aesthetic qualities, the more I am convinced that print will last forever. As long as the human soul longs for the truth, for something “real”, they will long for good books and beautiful magazines. It is my job to help make those objects good and beautiful—and help people recognize that longing in themselves.

What is the paramount message conservatives must market in order to convince Americans our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are still relevant in these polarized political times?

A difficult question that I am tempted to pass on because I am not fully convinced of my own answer! But from what I perceive, it is that these are documents that are not just fundamentally but objectively good. Objectivity is what must be continuously emphasized, not fundamentalism. (I say this as a someone who might be described as a “fundamentalist” in more ways than one!) The laws and principles expressed within the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights help people accomplish civilizational objectives. A fact that has been proven over centuries now. They are the culmination of the Western world’s learning and Republican experimentation. Everyone likes things that are useful! If we don’t use our laws to reach objectives, how will anyone value them? Now what are those objectives? That is what conservatives must decide. That is the crux of what I see as the core of the conservative arguments at the moment. What do we want our civilization to be?

What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?

Growing up in and around New York City, it was the combination of a fierce desire for some small degree of independence and a strong determination to prosper in spite of hardship that led to strange, inventive, and sometimes humorous ways of making life, business, and society somehow just work. My mom is of old Anglo-Saxon lineage with many generations in the American South, beginning with the founding of Maryland and ending with Texas after the War. My dad is a true Brooklynite whose grandparents came from Germany and Ireland via Ellis Island in the 1930s and never left Brooklyn for generations. Never really saw how much of a European my dad and how much of an American my mom was until I got older, but that meshing of the Old World and New World cultures that I was raised in my own home with and that I was surrounded by in New York showed me that where there is shared purpose and shared love, it will somehow just work.

What books are you currently reading?

New Deal Rebels, an edited collection of writings and speeches from the 1930s by Americans who opposed FDR’s fascistic suffocation of the economy and the ultimate erosion of the freedom for all Americans to build and retain wealth apart from the federal government for the sake of supposed benevolence to a struggling minority. The takeaway: The New Deal was a bad deal. One we should not attempt to repeat, but reject the precedences it set.

What book, film, or speech has left a lasting impression and why?

There is no greater book for me than the Christian Bible. It has educated, broken, shaped, and refined me, in countless ways that no other work could ever. My work is given insight by the wisdom I continuously find in it each day. My life is oriented around the principles for living that I see expressed in it. My psyche is grounded by the truth about my God, myself, and my world that is weaved throughout it. It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr Deeds Goes to Town, and many of those Frank Capra movies I was raised on are also great. Gave me a sense of what it means to be a good American and aligned with what I saw in the Bible as what it means to be a good man.

Do you have a favorite quote? Is there a reason this quote resonates so strongly with you?

It is a quote from Christ in the record of John where He says: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” I am not greater than my Master. His words here reminds me constantly that if His focus was not on fulfilling His own destiny, or doing His own will, but seeing Himself as on a mission from one greater than Himself, then I must live the same way. I am not certain what God’s plan is for my life or my nation or even my civilization at large, but I know that if I will submit myself to His will, He in His goodness will guide me to whatever end He sees as best.

At the end of a stressful day what brings you peace of mind?

Knowing that I have done what God wanted me to do, whatever it may be.