Race, Justice, and Leadership in America

The Civic Discourse Project (2020-2021)

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. Each webinar will be dedicated to leaders of thought and action, and will include discussion of the subject of slavery and the founding, the thought of Frederick Douglass, and Lincoln and Slavery, throughout the Fall 2020 semester.

Upcoming events

"My First Wishes": George Washington and the Abolition of Slavery


Monday, October 12, 2020 | 5 p.m. MST | Online

In his will, George Washington made provision for freeing the slaves he held in "his own right." How are we to understand Washington as the general and president who led the United States to national freedom, but who remained a slave owner throughout his life? What do George Washington’s words and deeds tell us about slavery and the nation he led? Join us for a conversation with Professor William B. Allen, author of George Washington: A Collection, and George Washington: America’s First Progressive.

William B. Allen is the Chief Operating Officer for the Center for Urban Renewal and Education in Washington, D. C. He is also Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science and Emeritus Dean at James Madison College, Michigan State University. In 2018-2020 he was Senior Scholar in Residence at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Register to attend.

Frederick Douglass and the Slave's Point of View

Monday, October 26, 2020 | 5 p.m. MST | Online

On July 5, 1852, more than a decade before the abolition of slavery, Frederick Douglass spoke to the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, N.Y., to explain the slave’s point of view with regard to the 4th of July in perhaps his most famous speech “What to the slave is the 4th of July?”. Join the school for a conversation about Douglass’s rhetorical and moral campaign to compel the United States to live up to its own political principles. 

Danielle Allen is a compelling analyst of history and contemporary events and a leader in higher education. She is currently Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University as well as Professor in Harvard’s Department of Government and Graduate School of Education. 

Peter C. Myers is Professor of Political Science, specializing in political philosophy and U.S. constitutional law, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is the author of two books: Our Only Star and Compass: Locke on the Struggle for Political Rationality (1998) and Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism (2008). 

Register to join us. 

Abraham Lincoln, Race, and the Fragile Republic


Monday, November 16, 2020 | 5 p.m. MST | Online

This discussion will explore how Lincoln dealt with the role that race and slavery played in the development of self-government in antebellum America. Curiously, he believed that shaping public opinion among white northerners was more urgent than trying to change the minds of slaveholding southerners. In particular, Lincoln thought that Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas posed the greatest threat to the ultimate demise of slavery because of his "insidious" doctrine of popular sovereignty." For slavery to become legal in all the states would not require northern acceptance of the "positive good" of slavery; instead, simply persuade white northerners not to care what happened to black people in the federal territories, as the doctrine of popular sovereignty taught. 

Lucas Morel is Professor of Politics and Head of the Politics Department at Washington and Lee University. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Claremont Graduate University, and previously taught at John Brown University and the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Dr. Morel also teaches in the Master’s Program in American History and Government at Ashland University in Ohio. 

Learn more and register to attend. 

Previous seasons of the Civic Discourse Project

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. 

Watch the Civic Discourse Project

Through our Civic Discourse Project, the school is able to bring in top minds in civics, academics and public thought for in-person dialogues as well as a regularly aired TV show on Arizona PBS. Not only are all of these public talks are free and open to the public, they are also available for viewing on our website. To be informed when new videos are available, sign up for our newsletter and subscribe to our Youtube channel

Go to the video catalogue.