“Freedom and Its Future: A European Appraisal of American Exceptionalism”

The John Jay Institute presents Os Guinness in conjunction with Cairn University

February 26, 7:00 pm

Author of A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future
with response from James Kurth, Claude Smith professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College

Location: Chatlos Chapel, Cairn University, Langhorne Manor, Pennsylvania (map)
Reception to Follow

The notion of American Exceptionalism accommodates a range of accounts, each asserting some particular conception of American identity. How we answer the question of American identity reflects what we understand to be the country’s ideals and aspirations. Contemporary political discourse suggests that the answers to these questions of what is or is not authentically American has direct bearing upon the prospects for sustaining the tradition of ordered liberty. In his newest book, A Free People’s Suicide, Os Guinness agrees, and he calls for a recovery of the remarkable and exceptional animating conception underlying the American founding.

Guinness observes that even where those authentic American ideals have been conceptually intact, the manner in which the United States has borne witness to those ideals abroad in the world has been conspicuously uneven. Too often, the failure to give expression to her animating principles has sullied precisely those most noble features of American identity. So much so, in fact, that Guinness proposes that both a recovery of principle and a reformation of practice on the global stage are necessary in order to stave off a precipitous decline. The alternative is to follow the path of other now extinct empires in a way that is remarkably unexceptional.

Responding to Dr. Guinness will be Dr. James Kurth, the Claude Smith Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, the editor of Orbis, and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

To RSVP or for more information, contact Nancy Browne at nbrowne@johnjayinstitute.org or by telephone at 215-987-3000.

About the Speakers

Os Guinness is an author, a social critic, and Senior Fellow of the EastWest Institute in New York. Great-great grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer, he was born in China during World War Two where his parents were medical missionaries. A witness to the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to Europe where he was educated in England. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of London and his D.Phil in the social sciences from Oriel College, Oxford. Guinness has written or edited more than twenty five books, including The American Hour, Time for Truth, The Call, Invitation to the Classics, Long Journey Home, and Unspeakable: Facing up to the challenge of evil. Previously, Os was a freelance reporter with the BBC. Since coming to the United States in 1984, he has been a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies and a Guest Scholar and Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 1986 to 1989, Guinness served as Executive Director of the Williamsburg Charter Foundation, a bicentennial celebration of the First Amendment. In this position he helped to draft the Williamsburg Charter and co-authored the public school curriculum Living With Our Deepest Differences. From 1991 to 2004 he was a senior fellow at the Trinity Forum, and a frequent speaker and seminar leader at political and business conferences in both the United States and Europe. As a European visitor to this country and a great admirer but detached observer of American culture today, he stands in the long tradition of outside voices who have contributed so much to America’s ongoing discussion about the state of the union. He lives with his wife Jenny in McLean, Virginia.

James Kurth is the Claude Smith Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, where he teaches defense policy, foreign policy, and international politics. He received his A.B. in History from Stanford University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University, where he was an assistant and associate professor of government.  He has been a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ), visiting professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, and visiting professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College.

He has authored over 100 professional articles and edited two professional volumes in the fields of defense policy, foreign policy, international politics, and European politics. He is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (Philadelphia), where he serves as Editor of its journal, Orbis. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Dr. Kurth is an elder at Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.


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Rear Admiral Michael Ratliff (U.S. Navy, Retired)
Former Director of Naval Intelligence and President of the Jack Miller Center