On 17 September, Constitution Day, the AHI will celebrate its first anniversary by inaugurating the David Aldrich Nelson Lecture in Constitutional Jurisprudence. Over the past few months, friends and fellows of the AHI have traveled to various parts of country to meet with supporters. One question frequently arises: How have students responded to what the AHI had to offer during its first year? We respond initially by reminding our questioners that most of the AHI events are open to the public, and so our “students” include not only undergraduates from Hamilton and Colgate, but high school students, adults in the community, and children who are home schooled. Some of the adults who have participated or will be participating in the Christopher Dawson Society and Edmund Burke Association reside in places like Batavia and Rochester, New York, more than 100 miles away.
Professor James Bradfield, one of the AHI’s three founders and an economist who has spent more than thirty years in an undergraduate classroom, has frequently remarked on the “spirited discussions” at the AHI and the “comfortableness” of the students in voicing their arguments. Many of our undergraduate participants have contrasted this experience to that on campus, where in certain classrooms self-censorship becomes a prerequisite to success.
We post, for our supporters benefit and for the edification of others, what we believe is a representative sampling from Hamilton College undergraduates who have experienced the AHI. The founders of the AHI thank these students for allowing us to make their names public.
“As a student at Hamilton College I understand the unequivocal importance of sound intellectual practice and effective communication. The Alexander Hamilton Institute offers students the opportunity to pursue these scholastic talents at a high level. By promoting passionate research, cogent analysis and persuasive public speaking the AHI can contribute greatly to a complete education.” – Reid Snyder, Hamilton, Class of 2008
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute provides a much-needed haven for the communion of ideas here at the College. It fosters intellectual diversity and tolerance, giving students of all backgrounds and persuasions a voice. The Publius Society, Edmund Burke Association, and Christopher Dawson Society each have unique missions and engage a diverse group of individuals, offering opportunities for education and expression on pertinent issues. The AHI has already become an integral part of this institution and the wider community, and we look forward to its further development with great anticipation.” Elizabeth Farrington, Class of 2010
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute is the only entity in which students, professors, and the general public can come together to discuss ideas and develop a broad base of knowledge on history, politics, and modern civilization. The AHI has provided many students, myself included, with the opportunity to learn more about key political issues affecting our society outside of the classroom. I have personally seen the hard work that goes into making the AHI possible. The variety of organizations that choose to meet at the Institute have seen substantial growth in both membership and student interest. The AHI has been a vital part in strengthening intellect, understanding, and promoting diverse discussion between Hamilton students, faculty, and the local community.” Edward Ajaeb, Class of 2011
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute provides a unique opportunity for Hamilton students and faculty to study Western Civilization by examining and discussing freedom, democracy, and capitalism. While Hamilton College spends a large sum of money inviting guest speakers onto campus, the guests almost always invoke a left-wing activist message. The lack of a conservative or traditional voice makes the campus hostile to a diversity of thought. This year, the Alexander Hamilton Institute has served as a meeting place for both the Publius Society, in which members studied and discussed the Federalist Papers, and the Edmund Burke Association, a new organization based around the work of British writer Edmund Burke.
In the Edmund Burke Association’s inaugural meeting, the Alexander Hamilton Institute invited Colgate University Professor and Western Civilization scholar Robert Kraynak. Kraynak lectured on the conservative thought of Edmund Burke, and applied it to the conservative movement in America today. This engaging lecture was attended by students and faculty of both Hamilton College and Colgate University, as well as many residents of the local area. The Alexander Hamilton Institute provides an intellectual experience that would otherwise be ignored by a faculty and student body hostile to traditional and conservative thought. The success of the Institute would have a great measure on improving the academic diversity on Hamilton’s campus.” Joe Bock, Class of 2009
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute embodies the best qualities of elite liberal arts campuses: intellectual excellence, dedicated, world-class faculty, and individual attention for students. Fortunately, the Institute is also a lot of things these campuses are not: intellectually diverse, open-minded, and a safe environment for students of any political persuasion to voice their opinions. The Institute has been a necessity for anyone seeking to study a balanced curriculum in Central New York. Personally, it has a been a blessing; as an opportunity for learning, to attend informative lectures, meet incredible lecturers, and as an outlet for an oppressed Conservative student. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Professors Ambrose, Bradfield, and Paquette for their creation of the Alexander Hamilton Institute.” John McRae, Hamilton College Class of 2009
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute provides students with a place off-campus for open discussion on a variety of different topics. I am part of two student organizations that hold meetings there. At the AHI, I have felt very free to express my views without any fear of peer pressure that can exist in the classroom. Often, I have learned more in my discussions at AHI than I have in some of my classes at Hamilton College.” Tim Eismeier, Class of 2010
” I only recently discovered the Alexander Hamilton Institute, and just became a member this semester, but I already think it is a great Hamilton asset. While the lectures are interesting, as many Hamilton special events are, the particularly unique feature of the Institute is the open intellectual debate amongst students and professors. The open conversations, where people are taken out of their established roles on the Hill and thrown into discussion, has generated very thought provoking experiences. I’ve heard really interesting perspectives from professors and students I otherwise would have missed.
Thanks!” -Laura Mattison, Class of 2009