May 11, 05

Vol. 20 , No. 11   


View Entire Issue (Vol. 20 , No. 11)


Character and Culture
JAMES Q. WILSON
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2005

In July, 2003, President George W. Bush remarked that "Professor James Q. Wilson may be the most influential political scientist in America since the White House was home to Professor Woodrow Wilson. ... He writes with authority on a range of subjects, from the workings of government to the causes and prevention of crime. Whatever his subject, James Q. Wilson writes with intellectual vigor, with moral clarity ... And now it is my honor to present the award [the Presidential Medal of Freedom] ...."

Over the past four decades, Wilson has earned an international reputation for his research, writing, and insight on all manner of political, social, economic, and criminological issues. The twelve books (which include The Moral Sense (1993), Bureaucracy: What Governments Do and Why They Do It (1991), and Crime and Human Nature: The Definitive Study of the Causes of Crime (1985)) he has authored or co-authored have helped shape public policy on juvenile delinquency, drugs, penology, and government regulation of business. His service on national commissions includes membership on the Attorney General's Task Force on Violent Crime (1981) and the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1985-1990), and chairmanship of the White House Task Force on Crime (1966) and National Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse Prevention (1972-73).

To Wilson, character— and the conditions under which it may develop— has always been a primary civic concern, and a matter that should be of paramount importance not only to social scientists, but also to legislators, teachers, and leaders in local, state, and national government. In his Athenaeum address, he will talk about recent developments in character-related programs— welfare, education, and crime— and about what may account for such trends as the recent decline in felony violence within the U.S. at a time when other industrial democracies have seen marked increases.

Professor Wilson appears as this year's Ricardo J. Quinones Distinguished Lecturer. Established in honor of the founding director of the Family of Benjamin Z. Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, the Quinones Lectureship brings to the Athenaeum some of the world's preeminent intellectuals, writers, and public figures. Professor Wilson's talk is co-sponsored by the Gould Center and the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World.