Michael Austin to be guest speaker at UE's annual Constitution Day lecture

Posted: Monday, September 12, 2016

Michael Austin, University of Evansville executive vice president of academic affairs, will be the speaker at UE’s Constitution Day lecture on Monday, September 19, at 7:00 p.m. in Eykamp Hall in Ridgway University Center. Admission to the lecture, which is part of UE’s annual observance of Constitution Day, is free and open to the public.

Austin is the author of That’s Not What They Meant! Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing. The topic of his lecture will be “What the Founders Fought About (and How They Worked It Out).”

Robert Dion, chair of the Constitution Day Committee and an associate professor of political science, said, “We are thrilled to have Dr. Austin as our speaker this year for Constitution Day. At a time when the American political sphere seems so dysfunctional and polarized, it is good to look back to the example set by our Founders over 200 years ago. There are lessons to be learned from them about compromise and cooperation.”

Austin’s presentation will explore some of the major compromises of the Founding era and explain how they were resolved. It will focus on historical and contemporary attitudes toward political opponents and argue that, in the times that our government has worked best, both leaders and citizens have engaged in rigorous political debate without fundamentally delegitimizing their opponents. This is a citizenship skill that is rarely taught but absolutely essential to the society that the Constitution created.

Austin explained that “the Constitution contains multiple ways to prevent things from happening and only a very few ways to make changes or move policies forward. The framers understood how easy it would be for the Republic to become a majoritarian tyranny, so they set in motion a process that would require debate, disagreement, and compromise.”

“This is the only way that anything can get done in our system of government,” he added. “It means other points of view will always exist, strong disagreements will always arise, and compromises will always be required in order to make our system of government work. These are not bugs; they are features.”

Austin earned his PhD in English literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He earned his MA and BA degrees in English from Brigham Young University.

For more information about the lecture, call 812-488-1150.

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