Civics, Patriotism, and America’s Prospects

The Civic Discourse Project (2023-2024)

This year, the Civic Discourse Project series will address the potentially unhealthy civic culture in America. How can there be “reflective patriotism” in the 21st century as Tocqueville observed amongst American citizens in the 19th century – loving America, grateful for America, but simultaneously debating on what American principles mean with fellow citizens and the government? Civic education is one solution that schools and elite institutions can improve upon to bring a new kind of nation, grounded in ideals and laws.

Upcoming events

CDP Spring Conference

Each year, the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) hosts an annual conference to invite scholars, prominent writers and speakers to come together each spring to discuss the school’s annual speaker series topic.

The theme for the 2023-24 season of the Civic Discourse Project is "Civics, Patriotism, and America's Prospects." Speakers will offer views on the prospect for the United States as a self-governing republic when surveys indicate a minority of Americans under 30 feel pride in country or value living in a constitutional democracy. Can there be a healthy democratic republic without patriotic civic education? What are the prospects for a reflective patriotism that combines loyalty with criticism and reasoned debate? This theme allows SCETL and the CDP to foster a high-level debate about alarming trends in civic culture and education, while also incorporating topics addressing the upcoming 250th anniversary of 1776 -- America 250.

Keynote speakers will include:

  • Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director, Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center
  • Yuval Levin, American Enterprise Institute
  • Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University

Register now

Spring 2024 Conference Agenda

Friday, February 23, 2024

Opening Keynote -- 9:30 - 11 a.m. 

Charter of Unity: Can the Constitution Bring Americans Together?

Yuval Levin, Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies, American Enterprise Institute

Panel 1 -- 11:15 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. 

Liberal Arts and Civic Education: Compatible or Conflicting?


  • Daniel Mahoney, Visiting Professor, SCETL, ASU
  • Catherine Zuckert, Professor of Political Science Emerita, University of Notre Dame
  • Jennifer Frey, Dean of the Honors College, University of Tulsa

12:45 - 1:30 p.m. -- Lunch break

Panel 2 -- 1:30 - 3 p.m.

Civic Culture and Civic Education


  • Elizabeth Corey, Honors Program, Director and Professor, Honors College, Baylor University
  • Tunku Varadarajan, Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
  • Aaron M. Renn, Principal, Urbanophile LLC, Co-founder and Senior Fellow, American Reformer

Panel 3 -- 3:15 - 4:45 p.m.

Civic Education and American Universities


  • Lee J. Strang, Director, Institute of American Constitutional Thought & Leadership, and John W. Stoepler Professor of Law & Values, University of Toledo
  • Jenna Silber Storey, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
  • William Inboden, Director, Hamilton Center for Classic and Civic Education, University of Florida

Evening Keynote -- 5 - 6:15 p.m.

How to Be a Confident Pluralist

Dr. Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director, Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation at the Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Panel 4 -- 9 - 10:30 a.m.

America at 250: Civic Education and Upcoming Anniversaries of the Founding


  • Jonathan Gienapp, Associate Professor of History and Law, Stanford University
  • Elizabeth Kaufer Busch, Co-Director of the Center for American Studies, Laura and Pete Walker Professor of American Studies, Christopher Newport University

Closing Conversation -- 10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

"A Higher Civics: The Field of Civic Thought and Leadership”

Harvey Mansfield, Research Professor, Harvard University

2023-2024 video catalog

The Constitution and Civic Virtue

Maintaining republican government and ordered liberty requires certain virtues—both intellectual and moral—among the people. Without them, the US Constitution's structural constraints cannot check ambition. Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

Watch lecture

How Abraham Lincoln Invented Democracy

Democracy is more often invoked than defined or described in public debate. What does that word then mean? Smith argues forcefully that American Democracy can be dated from the afternoon of November 19,1863 when Abraham Lincoln announced “a new birth of freedom” in the Gettysburg Address. His words linked for the first time the struggle against slavery with the struggle for democracy both at home and abroad.

Watch lecture

Timothy Sandefur

Economic Freedom and Democratic Participation 

The American institution of economic liberty affects our daily lives. Learn and discuss how economic freedom has affected American life to understand the arguments for and against it, the blessings it has brought, the anxieties it has caused, and the future of this central cultural institution. 

Watch lecture

Previous seasons of the Civic Discourse Project

2022-23: Ideological Conformity on Campus and in American Society

In the 2022-23 Civic Discourse Project lecture series, we invite you to reflect on the status of open dialogue, dissent, and the pursuit of knowledge today in universities and American society. Throughout the series, we will discuss whether there is room for disagreement and ideological differences in the arts, the media, business, and the academic environment today.

Watch the series. 

2021-2022: Renewing America's Civic Compact

Can Americans find a path on which we can move together with a sense of purpose to rebuild the public and private institutions through which we sustain our civic, communal, and professional lives? How can we engage civilly amidst competing perspectives in the face of the many trials we face in politics and governance, at home and abroad? With these questions in mind, the 2021-2022 Civic Discourse Project offered an assessment of what the challenges are to American civic life and its institutions—including the university—and discussed how to rebuild the institutions and unity of our civil society.

Watch the series.

2020-2021: Race, Justice, and Leadership in America

In response to Arizona State University President Michael Crow's call to address recent events across America and the civic crisis of conscience they provoked, the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership proposes to lead a program of discussion, learning, and action for a renewal of our common pledge to respect and protect the equal rights of all Americans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To this end, the theme of this year's "The Civic Discourse Project" will address Race, Justice, and Leadership in America in a virtual series. 

Watch the series.

Civic Discourse Project

2019-2020: Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America

Mark Twain once said that “[c]itizenship is what makes a republic.” The primary purpose of civic education, as envisioned by the Founders, was to instill in our population the civic virtues, basic principles and practices of citizenship that would sustain a republic. What are the characteristics, advantages, duties, and responsibilities of a citizen today? Speakers include Robert Putnam, Yascha Mounk, David Leonhardt, Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Shikha Dalmia.

Watch the series.

Civic Discourse Project

2018-2019: Polarization and Civil Disagreement: Confronting America's Civic Crisis

Political and intellectual polarization are a significant contributing factor to America’s civic crisis. By providing forums for civil disagreement, we hope to engage in the intellectual and civic work necessary to overcome the political divide and to renew and enhance America’s capacity for self-governance. Speakers include Jonah Goldberg, Arthur Brooks, and Kristen Soltis Anderson.  

Watch the series.

Civic Discourse Project

2017-2018: Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society

The school's inaugural lecture series took on the theme of free speech and intellectual diversity on college campuses and in American society as a whole. The school assembled high profile speakers from a range of viewpoints to discuss the meaning of intellectual diversity in education; the new challenges facing freedom of discourse; and the implications of this campus crisis for America’s civic order. Speakers include Jonathan Haidt, Steven Pinker, Allison Stanger, and Harvey Mansfield.

Watch the series.