ASU director joins roundtable to discuss need for moderation in politics, public life

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's Paul Carrese contributes to an ongoing dialogue about the need for moderation in liberal democracy

November 17, 2017

Paul Carrese, director of Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, joined a roundtable discussion at the 49th Annual Northeastern Political Science Association Conference held Nov. 9–11 in Philadelphia to discuss Aurelian Craiutu’s book, "Faces of Moderation: The Art of Balance in an Age of Extremes."

The roundtable was an “Author Meets Critics” session that brought Carrese alongside Craiutu to discuss what it means to be a moderate voice in both politics and public life. Other participants included Murray Bessette, director of Academic Programs at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Bryan-Paul Frost, political science professor at the University of Louisiana Lafayette; and Dan Mahoney, political science professor at Assumption College. Aurelian Craiutu Faces of Moderation Download Full Image

In "Faces of Moderation," Craiutu examines the work of multiple prominent twentieth-century political thinkers, addressing both the strengths and limitations of moderation in the face of political binaries and extremes — especially fascism and communism. Craiutu applies these lessons to liberal democracies today, which face a new kind of extremism in our polarized and angry politics. 

Craitu, Carrese and other participants addressed the inconsistencies between the extremism of campaign rhetoric with the moderation necessary to effectively legislate once elected, by brokering compromises across party lines. In fact, our constitutional system of separation of powers and federalism was designed to mitigate extremes and reward moderation by pushing parties and individual politicians to moderate their rhetoric and actions given the need to negotiate and conciliate in a complex political system.

The panelists discussed why our universities don’t emphasize these ideas, and how to balance a commitment to fundamental truths and values with the importance of avoiding polarization and extremism. 

Carrese has published extensively on the importance of balance and restraint in a representative democracy, including his 2016 book, "Democracy in Moderation: Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Sustainable Liberalism," which describes liberal democracy as fundamentally rooted in the avoidance of extremes. According to Carrese, moderation is a means for “coping with the complexity of the world” in a way that reconciles important principles and seeks a golden mean, without being reduced to polarization and ideological strong-arming.  

Both Craiutu’s and Carrese’s books on the subject are available in print or as e-books.

"Democracy in Moderation" has received prominent reviews published by Real Clear Politics, The Claremont Institute, and The Public Discourse

"Faces of Moderation" has been reviewed by David Brooks and Peter Wehner for the New York Times, and by the Wall Street Journal. 

Ty Fishkind

Communications specialist, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


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NYU prof speaks on need to restore viewpoint diversity in higher education

American higher education is a sinking ship, says Jonathan Haidt.
November 9, 2017

Comparing higher education in America to the Titanic is a risky move when you’re speaking to a crowd of college students and professors, but that’s exactly what Jonathan Haidt did Thursday evening at Arizona State University.

Referring to what he views as an alarming decline in diversity of viewpoints on college campuses across the nation, the New York Times best-selling author of “The Righteous Mind” said, “This is an extremely dangerous situation for higher education. American higher education could be a sinking ship.”

Haidt visited ASU’s Tempe campus to contribute to an ongoing discussion about free speech on campus with his talk, “America's Escalating Outrage: Why Is it Happening, What Does It Do to Colleges and How Can We Reverse It?”

The talk marked the final event of the fall 2017 semester series “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society,” sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, and co-sponsored by the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The series continues Jan. 26, 2018, with a visit from Robby P. George (Princeton University) and Cornel West (Harvard University) for a dialogue about free speech.

Haidt, a social psychologist and the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, conducts research on morality, its emotional foundations, cultural variations and developmental course.

“There’s been a sea change in the academy in the last two or three years,” he told the audience Thursday. “It’s like someone reached in and changed the way we interact with each other.”

The ratio of professors who identify as left- vs. right-leaning has skyrocketed in recent years, with a 2016 poll putting it at 17 to 1. According to Haidt, that’s “a terrible state of affairs” as it affects research and civil discourse.

When you’re not challenged by different viewpoints, he said, “You get stupid. You get lazy. You believe things dogmatically.”

The co-founder of Heterodox Academy, “a politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists and other scholars who want to improve … academic disciplines and universities,” Haidt said the trend on college campuses is a reflection of the culture war that has dominated American politics of late.

“America had the weirdest political season in history,” he said. And it all began around 2014, thanks in large part to social media and the ease with which fake news and propaganda flow there. And as incendiary as those headlines can be, we love to read them — it’s neurological.

“The more angry you are, the more pleasing it is to read fake news,” even if you might doubt it, Haidt said. This all goes back to fundamental human nature. We’ve evolved to be tribal, to align with one side or another. We see it most obviously in the passionate sports fan.

But sometimes passion can be dangerous. As passions rise, Haidt explained, so does the ability to believe the worst about the other side. What has resulted in America is a deeply divided nation, in which both sides believe so fiercely in their convictions that they view the other side as not just wrong but fundamentally evil.

That division has reared its ugly head in academic institutions, which have become so left-leaning that even professors who identify as liberal report feeling as though they have to walk on eggshells so as not to offend students lest they cry, “Microaggression!”

“That is one of the worst ideas ever to come out of psychology,” Haidt said. “It has no scientific validity.”

What’s worse, it creates an environment where nobody learns anything.

“What is a safe space?” he continued. “It’s a way of saying, ‘No collisions, because that would hurt people.’ No, it helps them grow. Without collisions, what are you doing in college?”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Haidt believes there are things those in academia can do to foster an environment where students are taken out of their comfort zone and challenged to think in order to grow. Namely, welcome and seek out viewpoint diversity and don’t be so quick to judge.

“Give the most charitable reading of what others say and do,” he said. “This is what’s disappeared from the classroom. Don’t look for ways to be offended. If we do that, we can actually talk to each other.”

Haidt ended his talk with an invitation to visit his website,, where you can take a survey to get insight into your own sense of morality, and you can take the “outrage reduction pledge”: 1) I will give less offense 2) I will take less offense 3) I will pass on less offense.

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

Top photo: Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business, talks about political discord within society at ASU's Student Pavilion on Thursday. Haidt says that as passions rise, groups believe the opposing sides to be getting worse and worse. The solution is to encourage listening and understanding opposing viewpoints. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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The truth about our Founding Fathers

Panel: Putting historical figures on pedestals can be detrimental to progress.
October 18, 2017

ASU talk with author Nancy Isenberg reveals importance of true understanding of history — and how Burr was a lot more than that duel

The unexpected success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit “Hamilton” went a long way to rekindle Americans’ interest in the story of our nation’s founders.

At the center of the musical was the legendary rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Their volatile relationship and the wider drama surrounding America’s founding served as the basis of a lively discussion Wednesday night at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

The audience was welcomed by Paul Carrese, professor and director of Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL), who promised the topics discussed would “reveal how the controversies and drama of our founding era” — such as vitriolic rhetoric, issues of truth in the press and questionable dealings with foreign powers—  are still relevant to politics today.

Related: Paul Carrese on civility, in 60 seconds

The panel included SCETL Professor of Practice and noted Hamilton scholar Peter McNamara and Nancy Isenberg, author of “Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr” and the T. Harry Williams Professor in American History at Louisiana State University. 

Though they differed on certain points, there was one thing the pair whole-heartedly agreed on: There are many misconceptions in our modern-day understanding of Hamilton and Burr as individuals, as well as their relationship.

Hamilton, thanks in large part to the craze created by the musical, is nowadays often revered as an infallible hero. But in his time, he was known for being controversial, prickly and even vain.

His popularity waxed and waned after his death, rising after the Civil War because of his emphasis on support of manufacturers and the union, and falling when FDR (who favored fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson) came to power. In the 1970s and '80s, Jefferson fell out of favor due to race issues, and Hamilton was back on the uptick, with Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography and Miranda’s soon-to-follow Broadway show solidifying his position in current popular culture.

“Hamilton has had a roller-coaster experience with his reputation,” McNamara said.

Burr, on the other hand, maintained a more steady public awareness, albeit not without its inaccuracies. Part of the reason for that is there has been much more fiction than fact written about him, with claims that he lacked character or was somehow less noble or moral than his contemporaries resulting in him being relegated to the role of the “American Judas” or “bad boy” of the founders, Isenberg said.

“To rely on Hamilton’s opinion of Burr is like relying on Ken Starr’s opinion of Clinton,” she said, when in actuality, Burr was a feminist who fought for the rights of immigrants, worked to reform voting rights at the state level and advocated for more transparency in the Senate.

Burr also “introduced a series of innovations we now take as givens,” Isenberg said. He collected data on voters and their issues of concern, he went to polls and gave speeches and, most importantly, he wrote the charter for the earliest predecessor of JPMorgan Chase, insisting it provide loans to lower-income citizens.

Hamilton also left behind institutions that are still here today and still work, McNamara said, including Bank of New York, the Coast Guard and the U.S. Treasury. Not to be forgotten are his numerous writings, including “The Federalist,” a first edition of which ASU has acquired and which attendees at Wednesday night’s discussion were able to observe on display.

And the famous duel? Also riddled with historical inaccuracies.

There are several outlandish theories as to what could possibly prompt two well-respected and educated figures to come to arms — including one in which Hamilton was rumored to have had a sexual desire for Burr, resorting to the duel as a death wish — but it’s really quite simple:

“Dueling was a common aristocratic practice back then in Europe and in the military,” Isenberg said. In America, it was a way to defend your reputation and move up the pecking order “in a world where one’s class identity was not as secure as in Europe.”

There are also rumors about whether Hamilton meant to throw away his shot, or even did return fire.

“Who knows [what really happened]?” McNamara said. Any way you look at it, it was unfortunate.

“They clashed and clashed and clashed,” he said. “[They both] said they liked each other, but what drove them apart was politics. And it was a real mistake on Burr’s part to shoot Hamilton … for more than one reason.”

As for the accuracy of Miranda’s “Hamilton,” Isenberg and McNamara feel that despite some historical inaccuracies, it did a great job of capturing the feel and emotion of the events it portrays. However, Isenberg cautions against the temptation to put any historical figure on a pedestal.

It may make us feel good about the past, but it doesn’t really engage the true history, she said. And though we may feel the urge to make our Founding Fathers into demigods who represent all that is good about America because they embody our origin story, we would do better to try to understand them in the context of their time; not as role models or geniuses, but as men who had to make difficult decisions to solve problems.

“If we understand that,” Isenberg said, “we can better understand the problems we face today.”

Top photo: Author Nancy Isenberg and ASU Professor of Practice Peter McNamara discuss Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton on Wednesday evening at ASU Gammage. Isenberg is the author of "Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr," and McNamara is part of ASU's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, who specializes in the history of Alexander Hamilton. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU 

Emma Greguska

Editor , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

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Opposing political parties find common ground at civil dialogue event

October 12, 2017

Former U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and Tom Daschle tell crowd at ASU why they think America has become politically polarized

Two former senators, a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican, had a discussion at Arizona State University on Thursday about how civic discourse has disintegrated and how it can be elevated.

And they agreed on almost every point.

“What has been prioritized is defeating the other side, and there ought to be a larger purpose,” said Jon Kyl, a Republican who represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate.

Kyl and former Sen. Tom Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, spoke at a talk titled “Disagreement and Civil Dialogue on American Politics and Civic Culture,” sponsoredThe event was co-sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. by ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership on the Tempe campus.

The pair’s time in the Senate overlapped, with Kyl serving from 1995 to 2013 and Daschle serving from 1987 to 2005.

At Thursday’s talk, they outlined why they think America has become so politically polarized and why it’s become difficult to have productive, thoughtful political discussions.

Daschle said Americans have “global engagement fatigue” from many years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the perception that trade has caused the loss of millions of jobs in the U.S. He also cited income inequality and stagnation, noting that in 1950 it took 45 hours a month of work to pay the average housing cost and now it takes 101 hours.

“That sense that there are those at the top that are benefitting more than others creates tremendous frustration and animosity,” he said.

Kyl agreed with those points and added his reasons — a cultural divide and partisan media.

“We no longer have the same basis of values or same beliefs in key, fundamental points that used to unite us,” he said.

“And it’s exacerbated by those who amplify. There are talk radio and TV hosts on famous TV channels who constantly go to the side of demagoguery and emotional rants rather than trying to seek out common ground,” Kyl said, noting that it happens with both political sides. “They appeal to the worst of our cultural divide.

“I can’t emphasize enough how toxic that has made Washington. You have them telling your constituents that if you don’t do A, B or C, ‘We’ll run someone against him.’ ”

The two senators agreed that they can now speak out because they’re “no longer in the game,” but they discussed ways that Congress could overcome its inefficient dysfunction.

“The airplane has changed the way Congress functions,” Daschle said. “It’s regrettable to me that senators and congressmen leave on Thursday afternoons and come back on Tuesday mornings and they try to run the country on Wednesdays.”

He suggested that House and Senate leaders require five-day workweeks three weeks a month.

And both men said that senators don’t socialize and get to know each other as people like in years past.

“If you don’t know someone, you don’t compromise with them,” Daschle said, adding that there should be more joint caucuses in which both parties meet. He said that joint caucuses helped members of Congress come together after 9/11.

Both former politicians noted that the stakes for dysfunction in the federal government are high. Kyl said it affects the ability to solve problems at every level.

“Instead of viewing yourself as a citizen of Tempe looking at a zoning case, you divide into different camps and motives are suspect,” he said.

Kyl said that rather than trying to make reforms at the federal level, which can have unintended consequences, it’s up to citizens to vote, be engaged and advocate for civic education.

“What are the key things in the Declaration of Independence that every American should know? Because that’s what we’re fighting for,” he said.

“We should teach kids not to agree with each other but how to analyze a problem.”

And our leaders should work on negotiation and compromise, Kyl said.

“I learned that the best way to legislate nationally is to give the other side some percentage of the victory, and try to get your percentage as well.

“But it’s hard to do when people say ‘You have to be pure, and if you’re not we’ll replace you with someone who is.’ It takes courage.”

The next School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership event will be a talk on Nov. 9 by social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt titled, “America’s Escalating Outrage: Why Is It Happening, What Does It Do to Colleges, and How Can We Reverse It?” For details, go here.

Top photo: Former U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. (left) and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., discuss "Disagreement and Civil Dialogue on American Politics and Civic Culture," at Katzin Concert Hall in Tempe on Thursday evening. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


ASU Gammage to host panel: 'Burr, Hamilton and the Drama of America’s Founding'

October 5, 2017

Join ASU Gammage for a night that will explore the explosive relationship between Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the wider drama of America’s founding. 

This discussion, which takes place at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at ASU Gammage on the Tempe campus, will feature acclaimed historian Nancy Isenberg, author of "Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr," and Hamilton scholar Peter McNamara of Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.  Join us for a special night to explore the explosive relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr and the wider drama of America’s founding. Download Full Image

Visit to register for the free event.

Burr and Hamilton lived in the same city, worked in the same profession (occasionally together), fought in the Revolutionary War and had seemingly cordial personal relations. It was politics that put them on a collision course. 

“We often have almost cartoonish impressions of the various players (in history),” McNamara said. “It’s always useful to just sit down and talk about what the major figures were really like, what they thought.”  

As the author of "Political Economy and Statesmanship: Smith, Hamilton and the Foundation of the Commercial Republic," McNamara is no stranger to the Founding Fathers’ stories. 

In addition to his role as a professor of practice for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, he is the editor of "The Noblest Minds: Fame, Honor and the American Founding" and "Liberalism, Conservatism and Hayek’s Idea of Spontaneous Order." 

McNamara’s research and teaching focus is on American political thought, early modern political thought and political economy. 

His fellow speaker, Isenberg, is the T. Harry Williams Professor in American History at Louisiana State University. Her book was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in Biography and won the Oklahoma Book Award for best book in nonfiction. 

She is the co-author of "Madison and Jefferson." She won the 2016 Walter & Lillian Lowenfels Criticism Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and was No. 4 on the Politico 50 list that year. 

The discussion will help attendees gain a clearer understanding and appreciation of the American founding period and key figures during that time, and examine if and why this period matters. 

“It matters to Americans much more so than it does in other countries what the founders said, what they meant and who they were,” McNamara said. “This is borne out by the success of Hamilton’s biography by Ron Chernov, the musical and generally that people keep buying books about the American founding. Just hearing about it is exciting and entertaining.”

Marketing and Communications Assistant, ASU Gammage


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5 things to know about the Constitution

Know your Constitution? 3/4 of Americans can't name all 3 branches of government
September 14, 2017

In honor of Constitution Day, ASU hosts events to promote understanding and appreciation of our nation’s fundamental law

Think Americans have a pretty firm grasp on the basics of U.S. government? Think again.

The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey recently found that only a quarter of those surveyed could name all three branches of government. What’s more, more than a third couldn’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

That’s troubling news to Peter McNamara, a professor of practice at Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL).

“[Those stats] mean for one thing that it is very hard for people with such limited political knowledge to participate meaningfully and constructively in civic debate,” he said. “Of course, another problem is the things that people think they know but are not actually true! I guess what these kinds of studies show is that there is a lot of work to be done on the civic education front.”

SCETL — launched in the spring — is rising to that challenge. On Thursday evening the school hosted its inaugural Constitution Day Lecture in the University Club on the Tempe campus to promote understanding and appreciation of our nation’s bedrock document. Clint Bolick, associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, delivered the lecture titled “The Renaissance of Federalism.” Watch highlights from the evening below:

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Earlier this week, SCETL kicked off its yearlong public lecture series “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society.” And it will host another lecture from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at Hayden Library to celebrate Constitution Day at ASU.

At Monday’s talk, titled “Hamilton and ‘Hamilton,’” McNamara will discuss the rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed in the hit musical “Hamilton” (which comes to ASU Gammage in January). McNamara will pay special attention to each man's views on the Constitution.

To help beef up your constitutional cachet, here are five lesser-known facts about the historical document:

1. The Constitution was nearly not ratified

“Just as we have ‘battleground states’ and ‘safe states’ in our elections today, there were some less eventful state ratifying conventions (e.g., Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut), and others that were hotly contested (e.g., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia),” said Zachary German, SCETL assistant professor.

Rhode Island initially rejected passage of the Constitution, even refusing to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention. It took two and a half years before the state finally agreed to ratify, at which point it had already gone into effect.

In Pennsylvania, “Some delegates opposed to ratification were dragged from their boardinghouses to attend the vote in the state assembly (in Philadelphia) so that the assembly could meet its quorum,” said School of Politics and Global Studies Lecturer Tara Lennon. 

2. Why we celebrate Constitution Day on Sept. 17

This one’s pretty simple: The reason we have Constitution Day on Sept. 17 is because it was the last day the convention met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. That was the day all of the delegates still present stepped forward to sign their names with Gen. George Washington, who presided as the president of the convention.

3. The ‘pamphlet wars’ played a crucial role in ratification

“In the pamphlet wars over ratification, it was customary on both sides to use pseudonyms, such as ‘The Federal Farmer’ or ‘Publius,’ withholding authors’ identities in order to keep the focus on ideas and arguments, rather than personalities,” German said.

In a last-ditch effort to sway delegates in Virginia, the Federalist Papers were shipped down to the state, where Washington helped to reprint and distribute them — and it worked.

“It was really only a few votes that made the difference in Virginia,” said Paul Carrese, director of SCETL.

4. Memorable names took some convincing

Elbridge Gerry — the Massachusetts governor who approved a salamander-shaped state senate district to favor his political allies, thus giving rise to term “gerrymander” — was originally famous for being one of three delegates who at the end of the convention refused to sign. And even John Hancock — the man with the most famous, iconic signature on the Declaration of Independence — was opposed to ratification as late as January 1788.

Both men eventually voted in favor of it; Hancock doing so after assurances were made regarding the promise of the first 10 amendments, and Gerry after taking the advice of leading delegates such as Benjamin Franklin and Washington who pleaded with delegates to swallow their particular objections and support the larger good achieved by the new frame of government. Gerry later served in the U.S. House and as vice president under James Madison.

5. George Washington thought we should be thankful for it

According to McNamara, on Oct. 3, 1789, Washington issued a proclamation that Nov. 26, 1789, be designated a day of Thanksgiving to God for the “favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.”

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Floyd Abrams: Country desperately needs to be thinking about free speech

September 12, 2017

Prominent First Amendment lawyer kicks off yearlong ASU lecture series about intellectual diversity on college campuses

Free speech, one of the most basic rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens, has become a hot-button issue with phrases like “fake news” and “safe space” entering the national lexicon, and arguments raging over what is and is not acceptable conversation for the public square.

Lawyer and author Floyd Abrams — who over the course of a career spanning more than half a century has argued and won many significant Supreme Court First Amendment cases that protected freedom of speech, including the Pentagon Papers case — took the stage Tuesday night to speak on why now, more than ever, free speech must be protected.

“It’s worth thinking about why we protect some speech,” Abrams said, alluding to what many have viewed to be intolerant rhetoric in recent weeks and months. He cited former Supreme Court Associate Justice Hugo Black, who said, “The very reason for the First Amendment is to make the people of this country free to think, speak, write and worship as they wish, not as the government commands.”

The fact that the speech of some may make others uncomfortable is the price Americans pay for the protection of their own speech.

Abrams' talk at the Arizona PBS Studios on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus kicked off the 2017–18 lecture series “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society,” a series created by the recently launched School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) in hopes of encouraging a more productive dialogue in an increasingly heated arena.

In the last year on college campuses, conflicting views about what exactly is protected by the First Amendment have resulted in schisms ranging from fierce debates to outright violence, as was the case when two students were carted off, bloodied and in handcuffs, after coming to blows over alt-right white nationalist Richard Spencer’s visit to Auburn University.

At the same time, a number of universities and colleges, bowing to student pressure and likely hoping to avoid similar incidents, joined a long list of institutions disinviting high-profile speakers perceived as potentially incendiary — among them, divisive British political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, rapper Action Bronson and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter.

But, said ASU Professor and SCETL Founding Director Paul Carrese, allowing for argument and civil dialogue between parties who disagree is “what universities are all about.”

“This year’s (lecture series) theme rose out of an immediate question facing universities and colleges about speakers on campus sparking protests and even violence, and being disinvited or shutting down the campus,” Carrese said.

“The larger issue is, what is a university or college’s mission? … We thought our mission was not to provide a specific answer but that the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership could be a national space to have the debate about that.”

At Tuesday night’s event — co-sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law — Abrams was introduced by Associate Professor of Journalism Joseph Russomanno, who said there may be no one else who has worked so hard to uphold the First Amendment as Abrams.

After being welcomed to the stage, Abrams expressed his pleasure at being the first to speak in such “a series of lectures at time when the country desperately needs to be thinking about free speech and intellectual diversity.”

He then recounted with dismay recent testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he found it “almost too easy” to list a number of recent incidents involving the misinterpretation or suppression of free speech on college campuses.

In regards to a lawsuit filed just last week against Michigan State University for refusing to provide a space for Spencer to speak, Abrams said, “His views I consider to be ugly in nature, and I am not at all alone in thinking that.”

However, free speech protects even potentially incendiary speakers invited to speak on campuses.

“Discrimination on the basis of message and content cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment,” he said. “That being so, speech must be permitted and campuses must take adequate precautions to prevent violence.”

First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams speaks at ASU

First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams (right), who represented The New York Times in the landmark Pentagon Papers Supreme Court case, discusses free speech on campus with ASU Associate Professor Joe Russomanno on Tuesday in Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Abrams’ encouragement of the audience to consider the rationale behind free-speech laws echoes SCETL’s goal to involve and educate the university and community at large about civil discourse and fundamental American values and principles.

According to Carrese, if universities lead the way on free speech and the serious, responsible and open exchange of ideas on campus, they can set an example of what it means to be an educated, active citizen for the community beyond the campus.

SCETL is working with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and Great Hearts Academies in Phoenix to develop a master’s degree focused on classical, liberal education. The school also recently facilitated the acquisition of a first printing of the Federalist Papers, of which only 500 exist. There are plans to collaborate with ASU Gammage on a public exhibition of the document when the Broadway production of “Hamilton” comes to Tempe this winter. (Alexander Hamilton was one of three writers of the Federalist papers. His co-writers were John Jay and James Madison.)

The lecture series and other upcoming panels and events hosted by SCETL — all free and open to the public — are being filmed by Arizona PBS, which will use the content to produce a four-part series that will air next year. The content will also be made into a book, separately.

Next up in the lecture series is a debate between former U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Tom Daschle (D-SD), titled “Disagreement and Civil Dialogue on American Politics and Civic Culture.” It is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Katzin Concert Hall on the Tempe campus.

“[They have] agreed to share the stage and have a dialogue about why it’s important to keep discussing and arguing with people who hold divergent views from your own,” Carrese said. “That’s what universities are all about.”

Find more events here.

Top photo: First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, who represented The New York Times in the landmark Pentagon Papers Supreme Court case, discusses free speech on campus before 200 people at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Tuesday. The talk is part in the "Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society" lecture series, sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the Cronkite School and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Editor , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

Hamilton and 'Hamilton' bring Constitution into focus

September 12, 2017

A little more than a year ago, in what quickly became the most memorable moment of the 2016 National Democratic Convention, speaker Khizr Kahn brandished a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution and offered to lend it to then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The simple but compelling gesture led to a sharp rise in the book’s online sales and searches, with many stores selling out of all their copies. woman holding pocket US Consititution Pocket copies of the Constitution will be given away on Sept. 18 in celebration of Constitution Day at ASU. Download Full Image

“At one point, last year, the Constitution was a top seller on Amazon,” said Brad Vogus, associate librarian for ASU Library.

For the 11th consecutive year, Vogus will be distributing those same $1 pocket Constitutions popularized by Kahn, in celebration of Constitution Day at ASU, slated for Monday, Sept. 18.

An annual national event, Constitution Day was established in 1956 as a way to commemorate our country’s most influential document and help foster habits of citizenship.

“The Constitution is our most important law document. It defines the fundamental law of our government,” Vogus said. “This event gives our students and the public an opportunity to learn more about it.”

Also, it’s the law, he said.

In 2005, programs aimed at promoting a greater understanding of the Constitution became required of federally-funded schools and government offices.

This year’s program at ASU will shine a light on the hit musical “Hamilton” and the rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed in the show.

“Since the musical ‘Hamilton’ will be at Gammage this season, we think there will be great enthusiasm for this talk,” Vogus said.

The talk — Hamilton and ‘Hamilton — will be led by Peter McNamara, a professor of practice in ASU’s new School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and an expert on the political and economic thought of Hamilton.

Paying close attention to each man’s political views, McNamara will examine how the Hamilton-Jefferson rivalry ultimately helped shape the U.S. Constitution.

The event, to take place from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., in room C55 at Hayden Library, is free and open to the public. Resources and more information about Constitution Day are also available via the ASU Library guide.

Pocket copies of the Constitution will be given away before the event — but only while supplies last.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

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ASU selected as nation's most innovative school for third straight year

ASU named most innovative university for third straight year.
Why is ASU considered to be so innovative? It's changing higher ed completely.
September 11, 2017

U.S. News and World Report ranks ASU ahead of Stanford, MIT

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

For the third year in a row, Arizona State University tops the list of “most innovative schools” in the nation, recognizing the university’s groundbreaking initiatives, partnerships, programs and research.

U.S. News and World Report has named ASU as the most innovative university all three years it has had the category. The widely touted set of annual rankings by the news magazine, which compares more than 1,500 institutions on a variety of metrics, was released today.

ASU again topped the list based on a survey of peers. College presidents, provosts and admissions deans around the country nominated up to 10 colleges or universities that are making the most innovative improvements to curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.

“Our colleagues at colleges and universities around the country are very interested in what we’re doing, and they pay close attention to all that we have been able to achieve,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “They know that all the cool stuff is going on at ASU.”

After ASU, the second and third most innovative universities were Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the same ranking as the previous two years. The next universities on the innovative list are Georgia State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Northeastern University, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, the University of Michigan and Harvard University, with Duke and Portland State universities tied for 10th place.

The innovation ranking is due at least in part to a more than 80 percent improvement in ASU’s graduation rate in the past 15 years, the fact that ASU is the fastest-growing research university in the country and the emphasis on inclusion and student success that has led to more than 50 percent of the school’s in-state freshman coming from minority backgrounds.

“We now know that because of our innovation platform and our innovation culture, we’re just getting started,” Crow said. “Our pace of innovation is not just continuing, it’s accelerating.” 

In addition, the magazine designated ASU as an “A+ School for B Students,” a list of universities that are not ranked. Schools on the list had to admit a meaningful proportion of applicants whose test scores and class standing put them in non-A territory but whose freshmen retention rate was at least 75 percent.

The “most innovative school” ranking wasn’t the result of any one specific program, but the holistic approach to inventing a new kind of university ASU has undertaken. Still, ASU has launched several recent unique initiatives. Here are a few:

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


ASU school's first annual Constitution Day lecture to explore 'The Renaissance of Federalism'

September 8, 2017

Arizona State University’s new School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is establishing a new campus tradition with its inaugural Constitution Day lecture at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, when the honorable Clint Bolick, Arizona Supreme Court associate justice, shares his thoughts on “The Renaissance of Federalism.” To register, visit

The school will host the first annual lecture to celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution to promote both understanding and appreciation of our nation’s fundamental law. September 17, 1787 was the final day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia; with George Washington presiding as the president of the convention, the delegates who supported the final draft added their signatures to the text. Photo of the Honorable Clint Bolick The Honorable Clint Bolick, associate justice, Arizona Supreme Court, is scheduled as the inaugural speaker for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's first annual Constitution Day lecture. Download Full Image

“We are delighted that a distinguished legal advocate, scholar, and now state Supreme Court justice will deliver the inaugural lecture,” said school director Paul Carrese. “Each year we set aside a day to remind us that the Constitution is the ultimate standard for our legal system and the rule of law in the United States. To understand what is at stake in important debates, like the one concerning Federalism, one, we continue to study and discuss the Constitution.”

Justice Bolick was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey in January 2016 to serve on the Arizona Supreme Court. Prior to joining the Court, Justice Bolick litigated constitutional cases in state and federal courts from coast to coast, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Among other positions, he served as Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute and as Co-founder and Vice President for Litigation at the Institute for Justice.

The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception with light hors d'oeuvre. Off-campus guests who park in the Fulton Center parking garage on the corner of College Avenue and University Drive may bring their parking tickets to the event check-in for validation .

Continuing Legal Education Credit (CLE) is available for those in the legal community who attend. The Arizona State Bar does not approve or accredit CLE activities or the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirement. This activity may qualify for up to 1.0 hour(s) toward your annual CLE requirement for the State Bar of Arizona, including 0.0 hours of professional responsibility. CLE participants can register via the link on the event's RSVP page.

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is a new school in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that looks beyond time and borders to explore the fundamental questions of life, freedom, and governance.

Susan Kells

Communications Coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership