RIT Hosts American Statesmanship Colloquium April 13-14

Free conference will address political leadership and constitutionalism

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A. Sue Weisler

Joseph Fornieri is organizing The American Statesmanship and Constitutionalism Colloquium, taking place at RIT April 13-14.

For the past few months, many Americans have been keeping a close watch on the 2012 presidential race, which is only expected to intensify once the nominations have been determined. With that in mind, Rochester Institute of Technology is hosting the American Statesmanship and Constitutionalism Colloquium (1776-1865) April 13-14, helping fuel important political discussions at dinner tables across the country.

The free conference, which complements RIT’s degree program in political science, aims to explore the nature of political leadership, including the qualities and virtues of a statesman, how we determine the difference between tyranny and statesmanship, and how it all relates to the concept of American constitutionalism.

“While not denying that the CEO of a corporation and the chief executive office of the United States have some leadership skills in common, this colloquium explores statesmanship as a distinct kind of political leadership bound by the rule of law and the corresponding duties of political office,” says Joseph Fornieri, RIT professor of political science and conference organizer. “The president of the United States swears an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.’ However, a dynamic tension exists between the great deeds of statesmen to save the nation and the limits of the Constitution. Take Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s broad use of executive power in response to the Great Depression, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War, and the security measures taken in the aftermath of 9/11. This conference will examine the constitutional legacies and lessons that can be drawn from these actions.”

The keynote address, “The Moral Imagination in Washington’s Statesmanship,” will be delivered by Gary Gregg, professor of political science and the Mitch McConnell Chair in Leadership at The University of Louisville, Kentucky. His talk takes place at 7 p.m. April 13 in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science auditorium.

Aside from the keynote address, there will be three roundtable sessions beginning at 9 a.m. April 14 in Louise M. Slaughter Hall, focusing on the theory of statesmanship and its practice in the Federalist Papers and by John Adams, Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln. Saturday’s session also includes a lecture and exhibit by Civil War artist Wendy Allen.

For more information, contact Cathy Claus at 585-475-2198 or cabgsm@rit.edu.