I am pleased, proud, honored, and feel a nice afternoon surge of adrenaline that this is happening to me in this wonderful campus at the inaugural of what can be a prime example set for other colleges and universities all over our country. Is this going to work? You bet it is going to work. And it's going to work because it's needed.
Success usually comes when what is accomplished fulfills a need, a real need, not a contrived or fabricated need. And there is a great need for much improvement in the teaching of history nationwide at all levels, but particularly at the college and university level.
...If you say to somebody "do you think it's important that our officers in their training and education know something about the constitution? Oh yes of course it is. It's very, very important that they know that. Well how about the rest of us?" Of course we need to know that, and I think that Professor Griffin is a perfect example of why it isn't just important to establish a beautiful physical setting or to have an adequate library to draw upon, and the rest, but that you have professors and a president who are committed to these ideals and to this avenue of education. What we're talking about is leadership of the future in all fields. It's essential, and a sense of knowing who you are not just as a human being, but as a citizen of a specific and very rare civilization called the United States of America.
...We want the very best people possible to take over from us when it's their turn and to keep the system this wonderful way of life that's been created for us not only to keep it going, but to improve it, so bravo for what you're doing and to all you who are taking part in it.
UVU Center for Constitutional Studies put together a fantastic conference. It was terrific from the standpoint of a participant, because there were great, interesting, thoughtful people talking about crucial questions of religious liberty. I hope it was interesting to the public because I think most of the speakers, though all great scholars, are pretty good at expressing themselves in an accessible and general way. I also thought it was terrific that there was a balance of different perspectives and attitudes. We had civil libertarians, we had protectors of religious liberties primarily, we had secularists, we had evangelicals, we had a full range, and everybody in between, and I think those are good things to have in a conference. I think it was overall a very successful academic event.
I think of my field as constitutional studies, and that means, not only the text and the history and the application of our constitution, but also the values, the beliefs, and the ideals that structure public power in the united states, and elsewhere in the world, and in today's very complicated and dynamic world, constitutional designs is often the centerpiece of what makes a polity work, and the values that are at stake in constitutional debate are the values that are at the core of democracy. So to study constitutional studies is to study is to study the beating heart of democratic ideals.
This is my second speech at Utah Valley University and I have been incredibly impressed. UVU is now the largest university in the state and the new Center is an extraordinary addition to the academic institutions in the state. The University wisely selected Professor Rick Griffin as the founder and director of the Center. Griffin was an inspired choice. He is one of the hardest working academics in the country with a deep background in the scholarship on the Framers and founding documents.
The programs of the new Center for Constitutional Studies places UVU in a prominent position, both regionally and nationally, as a forum for the non-partisan study of vital issues in today's public and scholarly discourses on the role of law in American life. Under the distinguished leadership of Professor Griffith, the Center has already imaginatively involved UVU students in a direct way, and it has become a focus of cooperation among UVU faculty of several academic fields who are lending their talents to its programs. It has already made a running start, too, in for developing productive links with academics and public figures of varied political and legal philosophies from other institutions and regions. Their involvement is planned on terms that seek to enrich the intellectual life of the campus and surrounding community, but equally so will be of value to their own understanding of constitutional questions and to enhancing recognition of the Center's programs in the national and international arenas. Withal, the inauguration of the UVU Center is an important moment for constitutional research and education, and it is an event much welcomed by colleagues everywhere who are engaged in these fields.
In an age when academic fashion prompts the creation of new programs devoted to evanescent enthusiasms, Utah Valley University has had the foresight of hindsight, and created the Center for Constitutional Studies. As James Madison hoped in the Federalist Papers, the Constitution has acquired "that veneration which time bestows" on great and lasting works of human effort. But our country does not need, and our people do not want, a thoughtless veneration that springs from a merely reflexive love of what is our own. Our country needs, and our people have shown they desire, a truly reflective love of what is good about our political order, grounded in learning and understanding of the enduring principles of justice that our Constitution embodies and has so nobly achieved. And so programs like the Center are vitally important for the modern academy—for bringing together scholars across disciplines and methodologies, for informing the teaching and learning of our constitutional principles, and for ensuring that future generations properly understand the origins and development of our constitutional government, and know how to "keep the republic" of which Benjamin Franklin spoke at the close of the Constitutional Convention 225 years ago. Under Professor Rick Griffin's able leadership, UVU's Center for Constitutional Studies stands poised to take its place among leading academic centers in this field of study and teaching of the most important feature of American political life, the Constitution that gives it shape, form, and principles of action.
This republic, this experiment in self-government only works if we have citizens knowledgeable about their rights, knowledgeable about the role of government, knowledgeable about their liberties and how they're protected, so we need an educated citizenry, and that's the role of the universities, at least in part. Particularly, we need to understand our own history, our own constitutional structures. It's not going to work if the people don't' understand them. Programs like UVU's constitutional studies program are essential to the long term health of the nations. You're doing here a project that Jefferson himself started with the University of Virginia.
Terrific leadership here at UVU. I'm extraordinarily impressed. You see it in the quality of the programs, quality in the way we've been treated, but especially the students. Extraordinarily bright students; I wish I had you guys in my class.