The way we as a people understand our freedoms and free institutions is often decisively shaped by what is taught in our colleges and universities. Too few professors teach, and too few students learn, the founding principles and ideas that are the greatest source of our national strength and purpose.
Michael Poliakoff (former Vice President of the University of Colorado): Without understanding the founding principles of free government and the history of this nation, we are adrift. There’s hardly an issue of contemporary political life that does not draw sustenance and illumination from the founding. When Alexis de Tocqueville tells us of the dangers of tyranny of the majority, we can fast forward to questions that we have now of dissenting voices and minority rights. Without studying carefully the thought patterns, and the exchanges of our founders, we’re never going to be able to develop coherent answers to the questions that we face today.
Mark Bauerlein (Emory University): Why is it that we need historical memory? Why do we need to understand things that happened 200 years ago? Well, there are many reasons why. One, there is personal enrichment that takes place in a young person’s mind. When a young person’s mind is filled with the actions of George Washington and the writings of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and to understand the evolution of this nation out of those founding moments, it gives a little bit more meaning and depth to their lives as citizens of this nation. They understand more what it means to be an American. I think you’ll find that they feel a little more encouragement to be civically involved. They’re more inclined to vote regularly.
Colleen Sheehan (Villanova University): I think the reason why it’s so important to study the founding is because essentially today we still live under the same Constitution, the same rule of law, and the precepts of that law that we did in 1787, 1788, or the beginning of the implementation of the Constitution in 1789. The whole idea of free government, of democratic government, is that the people rule themselves, self government. And, without a citizenry that can understand what their rights are, and their responsibilities, then without that, there can be no self government, there can be no liberty. So, that’s why it’s important to return to first principals, to the principals of the Constitution. So that the great experiment, as the founders called it, the great experiment in self government has a chance to succeed.
James Cesaer (University of Virginia): I’d say this – the United States is a country which is founded not on the fact that we’re one ethnic group, one religious group. It’s founded on the fact that we share a certain set of ideas. If we lose those set of ideas, we really lose the core of what the United States is all about. It’s been said that it only takes one or two uneducated, or under educated generations of Americans for us to lose an understanding of who we are and lose the institutions that guarantee our freedoms. It’s terribly important therefore that we make the effort now to make sure that those college professors who are committed to communicating that knowledge to the future generations, that they have the support they need to do that job.
Allen Guelzo: Gettysburg: The Last Invasion May 15th, 2013 - From the acclaimed Civil War historian, a brilliant new history—the most intimate and richly readable account we have had—of the climactic three-day battle of Gettysburg. Read more
PodCast: Lorraine Pangle on Benjamin Franklin and Civic Spirit May 13th, 2013 - Lorraine Pangle discusses Benjamin Franklin and his lifelong emphasis on the importance of civic spirit in the United States. Read more
James Madison Program at Princeton: MILESTONES IN THE HISTORY OF THE FREE SOCIETY— AND PROSPECTS FOR PERPETUATION on May 20 2013 more
Newberry Library: NTC: Art and the American Civil War on May 21 2013 more
Chicago: American Political Science Convention on August 29 2013 more