From the President’s Desk
2 December 2020
A Message from The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI):
Dear Friends of AHI:
We need your support.
The Covid pandemic and the deep political divide that exists in the country have affected all of us. Layoffs and economic uncertainties have diminished charitable giving. Few businesses, including educational non-profit organizations like our own, have remained untouched by the changed environment. For AHI to continue and expand its programming, we need your financial support. Please consider a financial contribution of $100, $200, $300 or more to further our existing programs and provide for future initiatives.
On principle, as most of you already know, we accept no largesse from government, at any level. The overwhelming majority of our donations come from private citizens in amounts of $250 or less. For those who have already donated, please accept our deep appreciation for your generosity during hard times. Since much of the work at AHI is done by unpaid volunteers, you can rest assured of the bang for your buck.
“Out of adversity,” said Benjamin Franklin “comes opportunity.” Although AHI had to postpone a number of annual in-person events in 2020, we created new programming by using available technologies like Zoom and by producing videos for our YouTube channel. Using Zoom, AHI offered for the first time to a national audience four reading clusters centered on the intensive reading of great books. This initiative will continue in 2021, and we anticipate the announcement of at least four new reading clusters, before the end of the year. In 2020 we also began a scalable summer internship program to benefit undergraduates at Hamilton College and at other campuses by matching their interests with scholars in our network. We cannot expand that program without your support.
Constitution Day 2020 (17 September) proved memorable. AHI celebrated its thirteenth birthday; Carl Menges, whose generosity made AHI possible, celebrated his ninetieth birthday. The Thirteenth Annual Carl B. Menges Colloquium, September 14-18, became our first-ever national webinar, “The Conception of America,” which AHI co-sponsored with The Texas Public Policy Foundation and the National Association of Scholars. Four AHI-affiliated scholars participated in the event: academic advisers Peter Coclanis and John Stauffer; Senior Fellow Joseph Fornieri, and AHI President Robert Paquette. Paquette delivered the featured lecture on Constitution Day, “What Made American Slavery Distinctive?” For the Thirteenth Annual David Aldrich Nelson in Constitutional Jurisprudence, a traditional Constitution Day event, AHI Resident Fellow David Frisk produced a special video “The Constitution and America’s Red-Blue Divide.”
Resident Fellow Mary Grabar has had a banner year. Although the Covid crisis interrupted her travels throughout the country to discuss her best-selling book Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America (Regnery, 2019), Dr. Grabar still appeared on numerous media outlets. The Knights of Columbus featured her in a special documentary on Christopher Columbus. She delivered AHI’s Second Annual Columbus Day Lecture. And on Constitution Day she appeared at the White House to participate in a special panel on civic education. Dr. Grabar has also signed a contract to produce a second book, which will critique The New York Times’ 1619 Project.
In 2013, AHI established an annual Veterans Day lecture to honor General Josiah Bunting III, a charter member of AHI’s board of directors. On 11 November, Captain Charles “Cully” Stimson, Senior Legal Fellow and Manager, National Security Law Program, the Heritage Foundation, delivered the eighth lecture in the series “The Dignity of Military Service.”
AHI fellows continue to distinguish themselves as teachers and scholars. Several fellows and AHI President Paquette are working with a Washington D.C. based organization to revise history curricula. Senior Fellow Juliana Pilon, following the publication of her erudite book The Utopian Conceit and the War on Freedom (2019), published essays on a wide range of political and philosophical themes. She and her husband AHI adviser Roger Pilon, founder of the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, were honored by the Institute for Humane Studies.
Senior Fellow Lee Cheek was awarded the James T. LaPlant Award for excellence in teaching and mentoring by the Georgia Political Science Association. Senior Fellow Eric Hannis, an expert on issues of national defense, not only received from the Raytheon Company its highest employee honor, but in an act of uncommon generosity, Mr. Hannis donated the proceeds from the award to AHI.
As evidence of AHI’s growing stature, RealClear Education, a subdivision of the RealClear Media Group, published a feature story on AHI.
In 2020, AHI announced the unanimous election to its board of directors of Robert Cady. Dr. Cady, an internationally known orthopedic surgeon, earned his AB from Hamilton College in 1967 and his MD from Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, in 1971. He has received awards for his humanitarian work, particularly in the treatment of children in underdeveloped countries. Dr. Cady, an avid student of history, witnessed firsthand the good work of AHI. His considerable skills in fundraising will be put to good use.
Students who were mentored by AHI continue to fill important positions in law, business, finance, teaching and education. One of AHI’s first graduates, for example, Timothy Minella holds a Ph.D. in the history of science and teaches in the honors college of the University of Kentucky. For the past several years, Dr. Minella has served AHI in directing several reading clusters, including one of our four fall Zoom reading clusters.
AHI is particularly pleased to note the appointment in 2020 of AHI alumnus Dean Ball to the position of executive director of The Calvin Coolidge Foundation in Washington DC. Mr. Ball served previously as an administrator at the prestigious Manhattan Institute in New York City.
AHI’s undergraduate program at Hamilton College remains active. It is currently headed by Hamilton College junior Casimir Zablotski. Mr. Zablotski, editor-in-chief of the AHI-sponsored student newsletter Enquiry, received national notice for a story he published on Bernie Sanders’ brief stint as a professor at Hamilton College.
AHI can extend this list of accomplishments, but brevity, if not a virtue, has its attractions. In January 2020, AHI launched a new “Affirmations” section of our website. These testaments provide a standing metric that affirms, for all to see, what AHI has accomplished as it enters its second decade of existence and we encourage you to read them. 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.
One final note. We live in unsettled times in a deeply divided country. Whether the republic can defend itself from enemies domestic and foreign remains an open question today as it did at the time of the founding.
As a great admirer of Alexander Hamilton, one of the truly remarkable meritocratic stories of his age, I am tempted to iterate the passage in Federalist #1, which has become a kind of epigraph for AHI. But as a professional historian, I will conclude this letter with wisdom from Hamilton’s great rival, Thomas Jefferson. In a republic, Jefferson wrote, the people “are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. . . . History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.” Let us hope.
AHI wishes you and your loved ones a healthy and enjoyable holiday season. Thank you for your support in our efforts to not only sustain, but to bolster our programming in the coming year.
President and Executive Director
The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization