Marian Miner Cook

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The Role of Citizens in the American Constitution

Tue, September 19, 2023
Dinner Program
Nicholas Buccola, George Thomas, and Susan McWilliams Barndt

The American Constitution begins by pronouncing itself an act of “We the People” and derives its legitimacy from its ratification by the people. And yet the people rarely appear in the text of the Constitution and citizenship goes largely unmentioned. What is the role of the citizen in securing and perpetuating the Constitution? How have citizens shaped the American constitutional order?  What are the duties and obligations of constitutional citizenship? Does the Constitution provide for the kind of constitutional culture and citizenship it depends on?

Nicholas Buccola is a Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College. His teaching and research are in the area of American political thought. He is the author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America and The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty. He is the editor of The Essential Douglass: Writings and Speeches and Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy. His scholarly essays have appeared in a wide range of academic journals, including The Review of Politics and American Political Thought. His public intellectual work has appeared in The New York TimesSalon, and Dissent. He is currently completing a monograph on the idea of freedom in the civil rights and conservative movements, and co-editing The Princeton History of American Political Thought.

George Thomas is Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions and Director of the Salvatori Center. His research and teaching focus broadly on American constitutionalism. He is the author of The (Un)Written Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2021), The Founders and the Idea of a National University: Constituting the American Mind (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and The Madisonian Constitution (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). In addition to numerous scholarly articles, his work also has appeared in The Atlantic, The Bulwark, and the Washington Post.  He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Huntington Library, and is the recipient of the Alexander George Award from the American Political Science Association.

Susan McWilliams Barndt is a professor of politics at Pomona College, where she has won the Wig Award for Excellence in Teaching three times. She is an elected member of the governing council of the American Political Science Association and Vice President of the APSA's American Political Thought section. McWilliams has authored and edited several books, including The American Road Trip and American Political Thought (Lexington, 2018) and A Political Companion to James Baldwin (Kentucky, 2017). Her writing has been published widely, including in The American ConservativeBoston ReviewBustThe City, Front Porch RepublicThe Los Angeles Review of Books, The NationPerspectives on Political SciencePolitical Science QuarterlyThe Review of PoliticsSouthern California Quarterly and The Star-Ledger. McWilliams is the co-editor (with Jeremy Bailey, University of Oklahoma) of the American Political Thought book series at the University Press of Kansas and a past editor of the peer-reviewed journal American Political Thought. For her work, McWilliams has received recognitions including the Graves Award in the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

This discussion is co-sponsored by the Salvatori Center's Lofgren Program on American Constitutionalism.

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