Luther Abel poses for a portrait inside Main Hall.
Luther Abel poses for a photo inside Main Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Luther Abel, a senior English major at Lawrence, has been awarded the National Review’s William F. Buckley Fellowship in Political Journalism, named after the magazine’s founder.

“I honestly still can’t believe it. I’m kind of waiting for them to send an email saying, ‘haha, just kidding,’ but it seems real,” Abel said.

The Sheboygan native applied to the conservative editorial outlet hoping to improve his writing skills, be a voice for young conservatives, and in the process represent respectful political debate. Abel has had two previous summer internships with the National Review.

The fellowship is for 12 months. He will then head to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he’s been accepted into an investigative journalism program that partners with the Washington Post.

Abel said he wants to better understand the more liberal and conservative sides of the political spectrum.

During his time at Lawrence, Abel has written frequently for The Lawrentian, bringing a conservative voice to the student newspaper. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when classes went remote, he co-hosted a Lawrentian podcast; he brought a conservative viewpoint while his co-host brought a more liberal perspective.

It was an experience, he said, that showed respectful political debate is still possible.

“The editors of The Lawrentian don’t take anything for granted with what I write,” Abel said. “They don’t like where my argument is, most of them, so they’re going to make sure that I’m correct and have sources. ... It makes me a much better writer, as I can’t be lazy with anything.”

Abel said that experience helped him get opportunities with the National Review, as did his efforts to make sure his writing was lively and interesting.

From sailor to Viking

Before coming to Lawrence, Abel spent six years in the U.S. Navy, where he specialized in air conditioning and refrigeration. After his service, he decided to go to Lawrence because of its “stellar reputation for getting undergrads into top-flight graduate programs,” he said.

He also was drawn to Lawrence’s small size and its 8-to-1 student to faculty ratio.

“It’s that personal element, getting one-on-one time with professors and staff, that can’t be replicated at larger schools,” Abel said.

Abel also found the idea of being surrounded by those with differing opinions appealing. He expected his politically conservative views to be in the minority among his fellow Lawrence students.

“I could go to where everyone agrees with me and makes me feel warm and fuzzy ... but why not see if my ideas are worth anything?” he said. “If I can’t defend them, then they’re not worth anything.”

Abel settled into an English major, calling Lawrence’s English Department “phenomenal.” The English faculty are “superstars in their fields, and I couldn’t help but be an English major because of that,” he said.

Lawrence offers an English major with an option to focus on creative writing or literature

Abel said he has been able to explore and deconstruct ideas he disagrees with. That’s made him more thoughtful, comfortable, and confident in his own arguments on issues he’s writing about. As he heads to the National Review and then Northwestern, he said he wants to be part of elevating the quality of political discourse.

“Don’t be obnoxious, I think that’s the most crucial,” Abel said of his approach to political discussions. “You have to listen; I’ve gained so much from hearing out people at Lawrence.”

For other Lawrentians interested in writing, Abel encourages students to work for The Lawrentian and to seek out differing opinions. When he leaves Lawrence, he said he wants to continue what he startedbeing a voice for young conservatives while promoting respect across the political spectrum.

“Most people at least have the right intentions, and we can argue about policy and how one gets to the best outcomes, but I like to think the best of people,” Abel said.