"What is America?" Conference

August 8, 2018
The current and former Baylor graduate students who attended were Matthew Brogdon, Kevin Burns, and Jordan Cash. Matthew received his Ph.D. from Baylor in 2011 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His research focuses on public law and courts, American political thought and development, and politics and literature. Kevin received his Ph.D. from Baylor in 2017 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Christendom College. His research also focuses on constitutional law and courts, as well as American political thought. Jordan is currently working on his dissertation on the presidency and will be beginning a fellowship as a Pre-Doctoral Research Specialist in the University of Virginia’s Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy in the fall.

Each day of the institute focused on a different topic led by a prominent scholar on that subject. The scholar gave a short lecture which, along with the prescribed readings, formed the basis of the discussion. The first day Dr. Michael Zuckert of the University of Notre Dame led a discussion of the French-Russian philosopher Alexandre Kojéve, asking how the Hegelian conception of the End of History fit into the American tradition or if it formed the basis for an alternative conception of politics. Dr. Zuckert also gave a presentation on publishing, discussing his role as editor of the journal American Political Thought, which has featured the work of several current and former Baylor students. The second day turned more explicitly to discussions of the Founding, as Dr. James Ceaser of the University of Virginia led an investigation of James Madison as the “Founder of Founding” in American political thought and the importance of constitutional veneration. Dr. Diana Schaub of Loyola University of Maryland moved the third day’s discussion to an examination of Abraham Lincoln in how he sought to reinvigorate American political life before and during the crisis of the Civil War. Dr. Benjamin Kleinerman of Michigan State University turned the group’s attention back to Founding, examining Federalist 47-51 to discuss the distinction between separation of powers and checks and balances. Dr. Kleinerman’s presentation was followed by an informative session on publishing given by Stephen Wrinn of the University of Notre Dame Press. The conference then turned to literature, as Dr. Steven Smith of Yale University led an inquiry into different views of American individualism, exemplified by Benjamin Franklin and the Transcendentalists, respectively. The last day featured Dr. Wilfred McClay of the University of Oklahoma, who discussed the broad theme of the academic community and its role in a democratic society. Dr. McClay’s presentation was followed by a farewell dinner where Dr. Peter Onuf of the University of Virginia spoke on the importance of inter-generational continuity to a republican regime.

The conference was attended by twenty-one scholars from around the world, with attendees coming from across the United States as well as other countries, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
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