By: Thomas Moore, Campus Editor
This year, the Tocqueville Program will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The Tocqueville Program is “an intellectual community devoted to seeking clarity about the moral and philosophical questions at the heart of political life.” It hosts a number of curricular and extracurricular activities designed to help students from all walks of life “engage seriously with the most powerful arguments behind diverse competing religious, political and ethical points of view.”
The program brings people with different starting viewpoints into a meaningful discussion. It has included several members (and a president) of the campus chapter of the NAACP, as well as the president of EROS (Encouraging Respect of Sexualities group). As diversity and inclusion is a component of grappling with challenging inquiries, the group also caters to students ranging from the president of College Democrats to members of College Republicans. “It is very inspiring to us to see these students read, think, and talk together,” said the Program’s Managing Director Jenna Silber Storey. “They often form friendships despite their differences.”
Different majors, political parties and religious affiliations are not only welcome, but actively encouraged to join in the discussion. As noted by Fellow Evan Norfleet ‘10, “Students of all political and intellectual persuasions are welcome in this community, so long as one is willing to engage with the ideas of their peers.”
Each semester, to complement the theme of their classes, the program hosts a Lecture Series, in which prominent speakers from many different perspectives speak at Furman on a number of topics, ranging from party reform to Frederick Douglas. This December, the program will proudly welcome Arthur C. Brooks, the current president of the Americans Enterprise Institute, but who will step down in June of 2019 to teach at Harvard’s School of Government and Harvard’s Business School. His forthcoming book, “Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from Our Culture of Contempt,” will contribute to the Program’s theme of love and friendship.
Dr Storey says: “One of the most important factors in developing open and honest discussions among people who deeply disagree is, in our opinion, the common enterprise of studying old texts in the philosophic spirit-a study devoted to following the truth, wherever it may lead.”
The Tocqueville Program has multiple components. One of which is the Society of Tocqueville Fellows, which is a select group of Furman undergraduates interested in cultivating the philosophical perspective on politics exemplified by Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th century French statesman who developed a “new science of politics” so that he might “see, not differently, but further than the parties.” In light of his undertaking, the program’s goal is to have the fellows “deepen their understanding of the Western and American philosophical traditions.” Foremost, it is an intellectual community devoted to seeking clarity about the moral and philosophical questions at the heart of political life.
This year, the Politics and International Affairs Department welcomed a new face: Dr. Ramon Lopez. Dr. Lopez is the 2018-2020 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Tocqueville Program. Prior to joining the staff, Dr. Lopez was attaining his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, where he also garnered the Hydoski Research Award and the Grodzins Price Lectureship. Born in Maryland, he has also lived in Texas and Florida.
Dr. Lopez will teach Introduction to Political Thought and American Political Thought. Dr. Lopez explains why he chose Furman: “Furman University’s pedagogical approach – including a great books education, small discussion-based classes and a close working relationship between students and faculty – was very attractive. Additionally, the academic culture within the department of Politics and International Affairs among students and faculty struck me as being conducive to productive teaching and scholarship.” Dr. Lopez adds, “the students here have been wonderful, in their attitudes, interests, and curiosity. I’ve enjoyed getting to know many of them, and working with them in and out of classes has been very rewarding.”
Dr. Lopez plays an important role in the Tocqueville program, whether it be helping guide discussions, advising students on future endeavors or supporting fellow faculty members. Fellows must enroll in a minimum of three courses in political philosophy over the span of their Furman career, and retreats are mandatory for first years. Even so, the benefits of these commitments to learning are substantial. “The Tocqueville Society has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my Furman career. The experience has taught me analytical skills to break down an argument, confidence to ask questions of impressive academics, and given me a home in a department that is not even mine,” says T.F. Colter, Physics, ‘16.