From the President’s Desk
6 December 2021
A Message from The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI)
Dear Friends of AHI:
We ask for your support.
In 2022, AHI will celebrate its fifteenth birthday. During that time, we have had to be creative, agile, and resilient. The passing of Carl Menges allows us to pause for a moment to take stock of what we have accomplished and to reflect on where we are headed as an organization.
To Carl’s great credit, he recognized decades ago, that liberal arts colleges could no longer be relied on to defend the best traditions of liberal arts education. The list of complaint is long and growing: soaring costs, curricular incoherence, grade inflation, politicization of classrooms, metastasizing bureaucracies, incentivized moral turpitude, weak and inept leadership, and, perhaps most chilling, assaults on the very freedom that should be the lifeblood of academic culture. The allocation of resources, as every college and university president knows full well, affects the climate in which speech can either flourish or wither on the vine. College presidents have become masterful in extending the tin cup for donations, chanting a platitude or two on freedom of speech, while continuing to lavish resources on the very groups who seek to promote academic upheaval and transformational activism.
When Hamilton College backed out of a signed agreement to establish an Alexander Hamilton Center on campus, Carl stood tall in funding an independent, experimental alternative. Like most of us, he had genuine doubts as to whether we could pull off our little experiment in higher learning. Time has answered that question.
We have succeeded thanks in large part because of the devotion and sacrifices of many unpaid volunteers. On principle, AHI accepts no governmental grants or funding of any kind. Carl Menges took great pride in AHI’s accomplishments, and he drew special satisfaction from knowing that AHI was ratified by the donations of common folk, of persons of modest means, who attended AHI events and appreciated what our organization had to offer.
In that regard, AHI intends to begin in the near future in our stately headquarters a major renovation. It will allow Hamilton College students access to the building for conversations, study, and research. AHI is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas. The idea that students must censor themselves on campus to survive suggests just how far campuses have fallen from a place of light to darkness. In addition to opening a free-speech zone, AHI can offer four major collections for use by researchers: in southern history, military history, in Western civilization, and in the idea and institution of liberty. The total cost of the project is $55,000. We have commitments for $20,000 of that total. As soon as the total amount is raised, AHI will begin construction.
Although the Covid pandemic continues to restrain our in-person programming, we have compensated with Zoom courses and YouTube videos of special events. Here are some highlights.
In 2021, AHI expanded its Zoom offerings. Subjects ranged widely, from the Cold War to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, from “Great Speeches in American History” to Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolution. AHI resident fellow Dr. David Frisk initiated the Zoom courses in 2020 and has subsequently developed a loyal following.
In 2021 AHI produced a range of educational videos. One featured a Constitution Day presidential initiative at the Rochester Institute of Technology, led by AHI senior fellow Joseph Fornieri. On Columbus Day, Dr. Carol Delaney, one of the foremost authorities on the religious dimensions of Columbus’s explorations, spoke on “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem.” On Veterans Day, Brigadier General (Ret.) Michael Eastman provided a learned and moving address on “Understanding Today’s Veterans.”
Resident fellow Mary Grabar has had another banner year. She has appeared on scores of media outlets discussing her most recent book Debunking the 1619 Project: Exposing the Plan to Divide America (Regnery 2021). It reached best-seller status in several categories on Amazon.
Dr. Grabar and AHI president Robert Paquette were invited by Doc Emet Productions to contribute to their “Deep Dives in Critical Issues” series. Grabar wrote on “The 1619 Project: Stripping Away Manhood”; Paquette published two essays: “The 1619 Project and the Constitution: Was It Proslavery or Antislavery?” and “Social Justice Is Not Justice.” Paquette will appear in a forthcoming documentary film by Gloria Greenfield.
AHI senior fellow Dr. Juliana Pilon has poured heart and soul into AHI’s acclaimed, two-week national security program in Washington, DC. The pool of applicants for 2021, the fifth year of operation, was the most competitive ever, and thanks to Dr. Pilon’s creativity, she successfully navigated Covid issues for a memorable in-person program that featured an impressive list of guest speakers. They included General Eastman and AHI’s own Eric Hannis, a former US Air Force officer who is now an executive at Raytheon Technologies.
AHI senior fellows Mary and David Nichols have had long, distinguished careers in higher education, mentoring young men and women in the field of political science. In 2021 Mary and David were honored by students and colleagues with a hefty volume of essays Democracy and the History of Political Thought (Lexington Books, 2021). Many of the contributors to the Nichols festschrift participated in annual conferences held in AHI headquarters as part of our summer Great Books initiative. Mary and David have passed the baton to AHI senior fellow Tim Burns, director of Baylor’s graduate program in political science. Dr. Burns organized two conferences co-sponsored by AHI. In June he organized a Great Books conference on “Patriotism Ancient and Modern” at the Treasure Valley Classical Academy in Fruitland, Idaho. In October, he organized a conference directed by Skidmore College professor Flagg Taylor on totalitarianism.
AHI senior fellow Joseph Fornieri has coedited a 700-page anthology on American Statesmanship: Principles and Practice of Leadership (University of Notre Dame Press, 2021). The volume contains essays on major figures in American political history from George Washington to Donald Trump. AHI resident fellow David Frisk contributed an essay on Richard Nixon, and AHI senior Fellow Lee Cheek contributed an essay on John C. Calhoun.
Alexander Riley, AHI’s newest senior fellow, has published on an impressive range of social and cultural issues: marriage, transgenderism and sports, the origin of diversity training, and the celebration of Thanksgiving.
AHI continues to offer internships for select undergraduates. Garret Callen received the first Harlan Calkins fellowship, which allowed him to undertake a special course of study in American legal history in preparation for law school. Edward Shvets received the second annual James Piereson fellowship, which enabled him to prepare for a full-time position with a major non-profit organization.
One person deserves special mention. Casimir Zablotski, leader of AHI’s undergraduate program and editor-in-chief of Enquiry. Mr. Zablotski has endured what can only be called an unprecedented campaign of smears by undergraduate activists for his association with AHI. In the current climate at Hamilton College, it is not easy to publish a student newsletter that brings alternative points of view to the student body. Despite the obstacles, Enquiry continues, and AHI commends Mr. Zablotski for his character and courage in the face of reprehensible behavior.
The list of AHI accomplishments for 2021 can be extended. But allow me to close with this thought.
More than a half century ago, the University of Chicago rhetorician Richard Weaver, in a classic essay, warned that higher education was on the road to bestowing everyone a degree without providing them with a liberal education. The stakes, for Weaver, proved high, for a liberal education was specifically designed, as he noted, to prepare young people for the achievement of freedom. Of this fact, he observed, “there is interesting corroboration in the word itself. ‘Liberal’ comes from a Latin term signifying ‘free,’ and historically speaking, liberal education has been designed for the freemen of a state. Its content and method have been designed to develop the mind and the character in making choices between truth and error, between right and wrong. For liberal education introduces one to the principles of things, and it is only with reference to the principles of things, that such judgments are at all possible. The mere facts about a subject, which may come marching in monotonous array, do not speak for themselves. They speak only through an interpreter, as it were, and the interpreter has to be those general ideas derived from an understanding of the nature of language, of logic, and of mathematics, and of ethics and politics. The individual who is trained in these basic disciplines is able to confront any fact with the reality of his freedom to choose. This is the way in which liberal education liberates.”
If anyone would like to know more about AHI, its programs and initiatives, please feel free to contact Robert Paquette at firstname.lastname@example.org
AHI wishes you and your loved ones a healthy and enjoyable holiday season. Thank you for your support.
President and Executive Director
The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization