PREFACE to The Conditions of Freedom: Essays in Political Philosophy
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975

Billy Pedersen was one of my students at Claremont Men's College. We had formed a friendship of the kind that young men and older ones sometimes do form when they are fellow hobbyists or fellow enthusiasts of a sport (bicycling in our case). Many mornings saw the two of us, before dawn, wheeling eastward through the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

When the pace slackened, and when the ride was over, we talked constantly of a wide variety of subjects, most of them political. Yet I cannot recall that military service was a question or a problem in his mind, although no generation in American history was ever so racked or tormented by it as was his. He was neither an objector himself nor belligerent toward those who did object. Yet he was a highly intelligent young man, as capable as any of examining the opinions of those about him. His patriotism was so natural to him that I think he was hardly aware of it.

Billy volunteered for the Naval Air Service. He volunteered for the helicopter corps. He volunteered for service in Vietnam. When his tour of duty there was completed, he learned that his replacement would not arrive at the unit for ten days. Rather than subject the men with whom he had served to extra duty, he volunteered once more, to serve until his replacement arrived. On the second day after answering this final call, he was killed in action.

Besides numerous lesser decorations, Billy was awarded the Navy's Air Medal, with strike/flight numeral “25,” indicating twenty-five strike/flight awards. He also received the Navy Commendation Medal, with combat “V.”

Billy Pedersen was a scholar, an athlete, an officer, and a gentleman. He was one of those “golden lads” of whom A. E. Housman wrote, who went to war, not gaily, but without a doubt that freedom and duty spoke with a single voice. Had he lived, he might have served his country with distinction in any other post of honor or responsibility. It is with deep affection and deep gratitude that I dedicate to his memory THE CONDITIONS OF FREEDOM.

Harry V. Jaffa
The Salvatori Center for the Study of Freedom
Claremont Men's College
Claremont, California
October 14, 1974

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