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Acton Institute Events

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The Acton Institute’s international events include public lectures, academic seminars, joint participation in panels, and the annual Acton University conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan – all focused on illustrating the Acton Institute's vision of a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

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21 Episodes
Today, we’re bringing you a conversation from our recent Business Matters 2021 conference.Business Matters brought together leading experts and CEOs to address some of the most critical issue and biggest challenges facing businesses in these volatile times.Between the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and political turmoil, we have seldom seen a more uncertain time for our businesses and for the world. Business leaders are being tested by switching to remote work, closing and reopening offices, adjusting to the changing needs of clients, laying off employees, and preparing for policy changes under a new presidential administration.This conversation – featuring Amway’s Doug DeVos, Brian Hooks of Stand Together, and dean of the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America Andrew Abela – will discuss the timeless principles that are needed to confront these challenging times.  See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this episode, we’re bringing you an Acton Lecture Series event from December of 2016, featuring Ilya Shapiro speaking on judicial abdication and the growth of government.Ilya Shapiro is the director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review.In this discussion, Shapiro recounts the fight for the Supreme Court during the 2016 presidential campaign and how that battle crystalized the importance of judges' both having the right constitutional theories and being willing to enforce them. According to Shapiro, too much "restraint" — like Chief Justice Roberts in the Obamacare cases — has led to the unchecked growth of government, toxic judicial confirmation battles, and even our current populist moment. See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this episode, we’re bringing you the most recent presentation from our Acton Lecture Series program, featuring the recipient of the Acton Institute’s 2020 Novak Award, Dr. Gregory Collins.Named after distinguished American theologian Michael Novak, this honor rewards new, outstanding scholarly research concerning the relationship between religion, economic freedom, and a free and virtuous society. It recognizes those scholars early in their academic career who demonstrate outstanding intellectual merit in advancing the understanding of theology’s connection to human dignity, the importance of the rule of law, limited government, religious liberty, and freedom in economic life.Gregory M. Collins is a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics, and Economics at Yale University. His book on Edmund Burke’s economic thought, Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020 and has already garnered significant attention inside and outside the academic community. He has published, or has forthcoming, articles on Burke, Adam Smith, Leo Strauss, Britain’s East India Company, and Frederick Douglass in the Review of Politics, History of Political Thought, American Political Thought, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Slavery & Abolition, and Perspectives on Political Science. His current book project is a comparative study of Burke and the Enlightenment.In this lecture, drawing out some important themes of his recently published book on Edmund Burke’s economic thought, Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy, Dr. Collins explains whether Burke overcame perhaps the most powerful moral and metaphysical objection to commercial exchange: that the never-ending process of economic satisfaction is fundamentally at odds with the good life.Acton Institute names Gregory M. Collins of Yale University the 2020 Novak Award winnerGregory Collins - Yale University See for privacy and opt-out information.
Today, we’re bringing you a presentation from our Acton Lecture Series program from January 2020 with Adam MacLeod, professor of law at Faulkner University, explaining the rise of morality in public discourse.According to MacLeod, our most contentious controversies today are moral. Political neutrality has failed. We disagree not only about questions of efficiency and democracy but also about what is right to do and who we are becoming as a people. We have not yet understood the implications of this shift in public reasoning from discourse about political ideals to debates about moral imperatives. To disagree well and to flourish together despite our differences, we need to understand the sources of our moral ideas. MacLeod’s lecture examines the roots of our disagreement and advances a proposal for doing difference well. We can preserve civil liberties and pluralism by grounding rights in moral reasons, which provide a more secure foundation for civil rights.Adam MacLeod - Faulkner UniversityUpcoming Acton Institute EventsHow to talk about rights in our polarized age - Acton Line podcast See for privacy and opt-out information.
On December 2nd, 2020, the economist Walter E. Williams passed away at the age of 84.Williams worked his way out of grinding poverty in the Philadelphia housing projects to chair George Mason University’s economics department. Over his career he authored 10 books and more than 150 other publications, and become one of the most recognized commentators on our American public life of the last four decades. Williams spread his message of racial equality, the dignity of work, and the morality of capitalism through his syndicated newspaper column, PBS documentaries, and frequent radio and TV appearances.Today, we feature a presentation that Dr. Williams gave in 1994 for the Institute’s Acton Lecture Series, discussing the legitimate role of government in a free society.A quick heads up: as we mentioned, this audio is from 1994. Our production team has done a lot of work to clean it up, but in the beginning of the talk Dr. Williams’ audio is very faint. Rather than cut out the beginning of his remarks, we’ve left them in. If you want to skip ahead to where the audio becomes clearer, then you can jump to the 7:46 mark in the podcast. See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this Acton Lecture Series program from December 3rd, 2020, founder of the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation Justin Beene addressed the topic of transformational leadership in a time of crises. Today’s “new normal” demands authentic leaders who are grounded and yet reflective. Many of us go through life without a rhythm of both reflecting and discerning. Beene discusses how leaders can grow and contribute to the flourishing of our families, organizations, and culture during a time of crises.About Justin BeeneGrand Rapids Center for Community Transformation See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this Acton Lecture Series program from November 5, 2020, Acton Institute's Eric Kohn spoke with David French, senior editor at The Dispatch, about the outcomes of the 2020 election and his new book, “Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation.”In “Divided We Fall,” French surveys the landscape of a politically and culturally polarized America, examining the true dimensions and dangers of this widening ideological gap. Just two days after the 2020 election, French analyzed the impacts the election outcomes (to the extent that they were known) could have on an increasingly divided and tribalistic nation, with each faction believing their distinct cultures and liberties are being threatened by an escalating violent opposition. See for privacy and opt-out information.
It might come as a surprise, but poverty rates in the developing world are dropping dramatically. In fact, economic growth in developing nations has far outpaced the growth of high income countries. Thus, not only has the world experienced a historic reduction in poverty over the last twenty-five years, but global income today is much more equal than at any time in the last 100 years. This event presents the good news about poverty alleviation.This event was co-sponsored by America's Future Foundation. See for privacy and opt-out information.
How Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg forged a consensus that helped make the American Century. See for privacy and opt-out information.
As one of only two presidents to have never formally joined a church, people have wondered just how much Abraham Lincoln himself was under God when he said that the United States should consider itself as such as it strove for a new birth of freedom.However, the Civil War shifted the ground decisively under Lincoln's feet. In the cauldron of war, he discovered that God was not merely a remote force or a faceless universal power, but a personal, intelligent, and willing God who intervened in the affairs of men, to direct them in ways that they could not even begin to imagine.This was a God whom he wanted his nation to be under.==`Allen Guelzo, Ph.D. is the Director of Civil War Era Studies and the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During 2017-18, he has served as the Wm L. Garwood Visiting Professor in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He holds the MA and PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania. See for privacy and opt-out information.
John Suarez is the program officer of the Washington, DC based Center for a Free Cuba. He has been interviewed by TV, radio and print media on Cuba. Mr. Suarez is a human rights activist. He holds degrees from Florida International University and Spain’s Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. He has testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington DC, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, and served as an interpreter for Cuban dissidents in Congressional hearings. Since 2009 he has maintained the blog, Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter. He is a member of the Cuban Democratic Directorate (2002-present). See for privacy and opt-out information.
A Soviet spy who was converted to Christ, Whittaker Chambers sacrificed everything for the sake of his Christian witness against injustice. As one of the most profound Christian thinkers of the 20th century, Chambers offers reflections on religion and public life with far-reaching implications for the 21st. This lecture will explore how his story points to uncomfortable lessons for Left and Right alike in our own day. ===Greg Forster, Ph.D. serves as the director of the Oikonomia Network at the Center for Transformational Churches at Trinity International University, and is a visiting assistant professor of faith and culture. He has a Ph.D. with distinction in political philosophy from Yale University. He is the author of seven books, most recently The Church on Notice and Joy for the World, and the co-editor of four books. He is a Friedman fellow at EdChoice; has published numerous articles in scholarly and popular periodicals; has spoken at the Gospel Coalition and Jubilee conferences; and contributes regularly to online outlets. His primary scholarly interest is studying how the structures of culture and civilization (family, work, education, business, politics, etc.) respond to the challenge of the gospel and the ambiguous tensions of religious freedom, in order to equip the church to be good citizens of both the Kingdom of God and our human communities. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Only the family can provide the sense of security and identity that every person needs. Civilization itself depends on children having a good first year.Family breakdown is expensive. Taxpayers provide programs to step in when the family fails. Businesses have trouble finding workers they need, with even basic skills. Individuals and families struggle to make ends meet when families don’t work together. What exactly are we going to do about all this? Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, long-time Research Associate at the Acton Institute, and Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, gives practical steps everyone can take to make the family great again. See for privacy and opt-out information.
2017 Chicago Open Mic Night

2017 Chicago Open Mic Night


Acton’s 8th Annual Chicago Open Mic Night took place on Wednesday, November 8th at the University Club of Chicago. The panel for the evening included:Paul Bonicelli, Ph.D., Director of Education and Programs, Acton InstituteIsmael Hernandez, Founder and Director, Freedom and Virtue InstituteSamuel Gregg, D.Phil., Director of Research, Acton Institute See for privacy and opt-out information.
While the formal significance of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation might be celebrated by Protestants and lamented by Catholics, reflecting back on sixteenth-century reform 500 years removed affords valuable lessons. The occasion also allows us to highlight the theological and legal thinking of a most remarkable though much forgotten figure of the Protestant Reformation. See for privacy and opt-out information.
In The Fifth Estate: Think Tanks, Public Policy, and Governance, James G. McGann illustrates how policymakers have come to value the independent analysis and advice provided by think tanks and why it has become one of the defining characteristics of the American political system. Drawing on case studies in both foreign and domestic policy, McGann clarifies the correlation between think tank research and the policies enacted by the past three presidential administrations. He also describes a phenomenon known as “the revolving door,” where think tanks provide former government officials an opportunity to share insights from public service, remain involved in policy debates, and continue to provide advice and commentary.Based on the history and the level of involvement seen today, the influence of think tanks is unlikely to diminish in the coming years.James G. McGannJames G. McGann Ph.D. is a senior lecturer of International Studies at the Lauder Institute, director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program and senior fellow, Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. McGann earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and was a National Fellow at Stanford University while writing his doctoral thesis, which examined the nature and evolution of public-policy research organizations in the United States. His research and consulting have enabled him to work with governments and civil society organizations in over 100 countries. He has authored over numerous books on think tanks and is the creator and editor of the annual Global Go To Think Tank Index. See for privacy and opt-out information.
The US Supreme Court hangs in the balance when it comes to some of the most important areas of the law, with a couple of more vacancies possible, and there are an unprecedented number of vacancies anticipated on the Federal appeals courts. Leonard Leo - Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society - describes how this state of affairs presents a unique opportunity to transform the courts so as to engender a greater respect for limited, constitutional government. See for privacy and opt-out information.
After ​World ​War ​II, ​Bill ​Buckley, ​Frank ​Meyer, ​and ​others ​assembled ​the ​“three-legged ​stool” ​of ​modern ​American ​conservatism: ​free ​markets, ​anti-communism, ​and ​cultural ​conservatism. ​It ​was ​a ​synthesis ​that ​elected ​Ronald ​Reagan ​and ​won ​the ​Cold ​War. ​But ​that ​synthesis ​is ​fraying, ​because ​cultural ​conservatism ​itself ​has ​diverging ​strains ​that ​came ​together ​in ​the ​20th ​century, ​but ​are ​now ​going ​their ​separate ​ways. ​Cultural ​conservatism ​will ​look ​very ​different ​in ​25 ​years ​than ​it ​did ​25 ​years ​ago. See for privacy and opt-out information.
The fight for the Supreme Court during the presidential campaign has crystalized the importance of judges' both having the right constitutional theories and being willing to enforce them. Too much "restraint" - like Chief Justice Roberts in the Obamacare cases - has led to the unchecked growth of government, toxic judicial confirmation battles, and even our current populist moment. See for privacy and opt-out information.
In Victoria Coates’ 2016 book David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art the author argues that democracy has had a unique capacity to inspire some of the greatest artistic achievements of western civilization from the Parthenon to Picasso’s Guernica. While Dr. Coates does not maintain that this is an exclusive arrangement, or without its fair share of failure and catastrophe, ultimately democracy emerges as one of the great catalysts of western civilization. In this talk Dr. Coates will focus on two case studies from David’s Sling, Michelangelo’s "David" and Albert Bierstadt’s Rocky Mountains: Lander’s Peak, and then expand the discussion to explore how similar histories could be written about two other pillars of western civilization: the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the belief in the limitless potential of the individual. See for privacy and opt-out information.
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