Patriots' Day with Steven Hayward

Patriotism is the “what” of loving our country, and for stirring the hearts of a free people it’s a good start. But for engaging our minds with the “why” and the “how" of liberty that lasts, patriots need a thoughtful, philosophically grounded conservatism as well. 

Historian and political scientist Steven F. Hayward of UC-Berkeley returned to the Colorado Christian University campus last week for a student-faculty seminar on what that means.  This being Patriots’ Day, it seemed a perfect time to post my notes from the discussion.

Centennial Institute, CCU’s think tank, hosted the event.  I had the honor to serve as moderator, alongside Prof. Steve Shumaker of the politics faculty.  CCU president Don Sweeting and board chairman Gary Armstrong joined us. Eight of the university’s brightest young scholars peppered Hayward with questions.

Taking the afternoon away from CU-Boulder, where he was speaking at the week-long, left-tilting Conference on World Affairs, Steve joked that as one of seven conservatives among the event’s one hundred presenters, “We now have them intellectually outnumbered.”

The CCU forum focused on his new book, Patriotism is Not Enough: Harry Jaffa, Walter Berns, and the Arguments that Redefined American Conservatism.  The two renowned disciples of Leo Strauss, friends who feuded, died on the same day in 2014, both then 95. Hayward knew both personally, and the book draws lessons from his remembrances of them.

When we asked if it wasn’t really the 2016 election and the Trump phenomenon that redefined American conservatism, Hayward referred us to his essay “The Crisis of the Conservative House Divided,” publlshed last fall just before Trump won.

He said the title of his book is drawn from a remark by Jaffa, under whom he studied at the Claremont Graduate School in the 1980s. (Claremont colleagues saluted Jaffa here after his passing.)  He commended Berns’s last book, Making Patriots, summarized here, for probing the subject further.

I had the privilege of meeting Professor Jaffa several times during my 2005-2008 stint with Claremont Institute doing national field relations.  I told the CCU students his magnificent books on Lincoln and the Civil War, Crisis of the House Divided and New Birth of Freedom, are some of the only books I've ever read that I wished were even longer than they are. And I urged the group to acquire and study Hayward's great trilogy, The Age of Reagan.

Before we adjourned for a light supper together, I mentioned having struggled with Leo Strauss’s famous but difficult book, Natural Right and History. Steve Shumaker, seconded by Steve Hayward, suggested a pair of Strauss essays as a better point of entry to his thought: “What is Liberal Education?” and “Liberal Education and Responsibility.” Intriguing, as well, to learn from Hayward that Strauss had highly esteemed C.S. Lewis's Abolition of Man as paralleling his own viewpoint.

Hat tip to Prof. Greg Schaller of the CCU politics faculty for organizing Steven Hayward’s visit. We missed him that day, as he was in Philadelphia preparing to move there next month and become president of the John Jay Institute, after almost a decade of distinguished service at Colorado Christian. Bon voyage, friend!

     "We've got'em outnumbered"

   "We've got'em outnumbered"