Today Richard Brookhiser wrote about a new educational program by the Bush administration, "We the People," devoted to remedying the fact that, among other things, 40% of college seniors have no idea when the Civil War took place. For the past 25 years, the Claremont Institute has been devoted to a similar project through our Publius Fellows Program.
Brookhiser rightly laments that "history education has gone off the rails." But this is largely because the understanding of our nation's principles has gone of the rails, and the scholarship of freedom has been neglected. A large theme of the Publius Program is that America's history can be fruitfully studied in light of the most important ideas enshrined in our founding documents. The principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution remain required reading for a serious study of our nation's political history, no less today than when Thomas Jefferson made them the centerpiece objects of study for the University of Virginia, which he founded.
Each year eight Publius Fellows come to Claremont to study these things, and this Sunday marks the beginning of the program's twenty-fifth year.
During their three weeks in Claremont, the eight Publius Fellows will read, write, attend seminars and talk about our nation's politics and history. And they will spend time learning to improve their ability to convey the lessons of history to others. They will study with a distinguished faculty to learn the meaning of the words "We the People" mean, and the events and people who have shaped our nation: the Founding and George Washington, the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, the upheaval by the Progressives, modern conservatism. Finally, the program places these lessons in the service of understanding of the most urgent issues facing our nation today, including the requirements for the strategic defense of the United States. (Today is, incidentally, the anniversary of our nation's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, formerly a huge obstacle to the constitutional injunction to provide for the common defense.)
We are proud to welcome this year's Publius Fellows:
Susan Bernabucci is working on an MBA at Harvard. She graduated from Princeton University with certificates in Italian, applied math, and engineering management systems. Susan was awarded a grant for independent study in Italy, where she wrote a child's guide to Venice in English and Italian. She has been a deputy White House liaison in the Department of Defense and a staff assistant in the Bush administration transition team.
Kevin Cherry is a doctoral student in political theory at Notre Dame. He graduated from Catholic University of America, where he was Phi Beta Kappa. He was deputy director of policy and an aide to William Bennett at Empower America, and is a frequent contributor to the "Guest Comment" column on National Review Online. Kevin hopes to become a professor of political theory while remaining active in important policy issues.
Robert Driscoll is a graduate in American Studies and History at Hillsdale College. He has worked as a research assistant at Hillsdale and has been a recipient of the John Leslie Memorial Scholarship and the Russell Kirk Scholarship. He plans on attending law school and may later study political theory in graduate school.
Jean Flannery is a senior government major at Harvard University where she is a senior writer for the Harvard Salient. She is the recipient of a choral fellowship in the Harvard University Choir and was awarded the Harvard College Scholarship. Jean was recently accepted to the War Studies Program at King's College London, where she will spend the fall semester.
Jim Lerner is a graduate of the University of Dallas, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, and where he is currently a graduate student in American studies. He is the recipient of the Hatton G. Summers and Braniff Graduate School Scholarships, and the Witherspoon Fellowship at the Family Research Council. Jim would eventually like to work for a major media outlet or as a policy analyst at a think tank.
Christopher Levenick is a doctoral student in U.S. religious history at the University of Chicago, where he received a Masters in divinity. He graduated with degrees in history and theology from Georgetown University, where he received outstanding senior awards in both disciplines. Christopher is a member of several academic honor societies. He would like to have a career in academia where he can study and teach political philosophy and theology.
Paul Watkins is a graduate in political science at Hillsdale College where he was the president of the Student Federation. He is a four-time member of the 4.0 President's List, and last year spent a semester at Oxford. Paul has worked on a number of state legislative campaigns. He will be entering Harvard Law School in August and hopes to obtain a clerkship upon completion of his law degree. Although he plans on practicing law, he is also considering running for elected office.
David West will be a senior politics major at the University of Dallas, where he has maintained a 4.0. In Fall 2001 David was a student assistant for the study abroad semester in Rome. He is considering working as a college professor, in government, or as a writer for a think tank.