McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles to Host Sixth Annual Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas


MACON – Mercer University’s Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles will host its sixth annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, March 26-27, focusing on the theme “The Ratification Debate: Federalists and Anti-Federalists.”

This year’s conference includes 11 scholars from across the United States presenting their work either as lecturers or panelists. All events are free and open to the public and will take place in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center.

“We chose this year’s topic because we thought it timely to reconsider what reasoned public debate looks like, and the ratification debate is great a model for how real arguments can be made and examined at the highest level,” said Dr. Will Jordan, associate professor of political science and co-director of the McDonald Center. “We’re also delighted to be able to include so many wonderful scholars at this year’s conference.”

The opening lecture will be delivered by Dr. Murray Dry, Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science at Middlebury College. He will present “The Federalist/Anti-Federalist Debate and its Continuing Significance for American Constitutionalism” on Monday at 6 p.m.

Dr. Dry specializes in American constitutional law, American political thought, political philosophy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, federalism, separation of powers and the American founding. He is the author of Civil Peace and the Quest for Truth: The First Amendment Freedoms in Political Philosophy and American Constitutionalism (Lexington Books, 2004) and the forthcoming book Same Sex Marriage and the Law.

The conference’s closing lecture will be delivered by Dr. Michael Zuckert, Nancy Reeves Dreux Professor and chair of political science at the University of Notre Dame. He will present “The American Founders and the Fundamentals of Governance” on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Dr. Zuckert teaches in the areas of political philosophy and theory, American political thought, American constitutional law, American constitutional history, constitutional theory and philosophy of law, and has published extensively on a variety of topics, including George Orwell, Plato, Shakespeare and contemporary liberal theory. He is the author of Natural Rights and the New Republicanism (Princeton University Press, 1994), The Natural Rights Republic (University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), Launching Liberalism: John Locke and the Liberal Tradition (University of Kansas Press, 2002) and co-author of The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2006).

Additionally, as part of the conference, several Mercer students and nine visiting scholars will present their original research.

The student panel, featuring Jacob Harvey, David Stokes and Mayah Waltower, will take place on Monday at 4:30 p.m.

Faculty panels will take place on Tuesday at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. Panelists include Dr. Carey Roberts (Liberty University), Dr. Lynn Uzzell (University of Virginia), Dr. Greg Weiner (Assumption College), Dr. Jeremy Bailey (University of Houston), Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch (Christopher Newport University), Dr. Kimberly Hurd Hale (Coastal Carolina University), Dr. Roger Barrus (Hampden-Sydney College), Dr. Jon Schaff (Northern State University) and Dr. Karl Walling (U.S. Naval War College).

The conference’s full schedule is available online.

The McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles has held an annual Conference on Great Books and Ideas since 2008. That conference was endowed with a $1 million gift from alumnus and trustee A.V. Elliott in November 2012. Elliott, a 1956 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts who majored in history and Christianity, went on to found Elliott Machine Shop, a 100-employee company in Macon. His success, he said, was in part due to his ability to think critically at important moments, a skill he honed in his humanities courses at Mercer.

About the Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles

The Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles exists to supplement Mercer University’s excellent liberal arts program with a redoubled commitment to the foundational texts and ideas that have shaped Western Civilization and the American political order. This focus on the core texts of the Western tradition helps to revitalize a cross-centuries dialogue about citizenship, human rights, and political, economic and religious freedom, thereby deepening the moral imagination and fostering civic and cultural literacy.

The McDonald Center’s programming includes the annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, faculty-student reading groups, a general education course on America’s Founding Principles, summer Great Books programs for high school teachers and students, and undergraduate research fellowships. All programming is designed to enhance Mercer’s longstanding role as a distinctive home of liberal learning, a place where serious students come to live the life of the mind and emerge more thoughtful and engaged citizens.