Some thoughtful exchanges the other day at the Hudson Institute on Theodore Roosevelt's Osawatomie speech, Obama's deliberate follow-up, and the meaning and future of Progressivism. Sid Milkis, Jim Ceaser, Matt Spalding, John Halpin, and E.J; Dionne. To get video/audio you need to click on the "View all events" tab off the home page.. Milkis noted that Obama never mentions his health care reform in his speech--it is focused on class.
If you can bear Dionne's self-promotion (does E.J. stand for Egregious Jerk?), you will hear some thoughtful remarks by the various panelists, introduced by Bill Schambra. And you even get to hear a question from the floor by her royal highness Elizabeth Drew.
Here's a brief historical overview of what is at stake in these speeches.
Gingrich went overboard on his attacks on overboard judges. Here's a far more sober account of what can be (and ought to be) done, by Ralph Rossum. Curt Levey and Carrie Severino add some thoughts on reining in a wacky judiciary without undermining judicial independence--both are essential for the rule of law. Judicial independence is not a license for judiciary supremacy.
An even better lesson can be found in early American political documents that list the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers among the fundamental rights of a free people. Consider for example the Massachusetts Constitution and the Essex Result,
"Consciousness precedes being, and not the other way around, as the Marxists claim....
"[Y]ou Americans should understand this way of thinking. Wasn't it the best minds of your country, ... who wrote your famous Declaration of Independence...and who, above all, took upon themselves practical responsibility for putting them into practice?"
A text of the speech can be found here; the links are unhelpful, though.
In Genesis, God parades the animals in front of Adam, who then names them, and these names are what they are. In the Qur'an, it is Allah who names the animals, not man. Man does not have this power to name.
So begins Robert Reilly of The Catholic Thing in his review of the second Muslim-Catholic Forum which was held on the east bank of the Jordan River last month. The theme of the forum was "Reason, Faith and Mankind," which Reilly distills to a primary tension of reason.
The essential issue here is the status of reason, which is why this latest forum was so important. Can we reason together? This was an issue Benedict XVI dealt with in the Regensburg Lecture. His answer: this is possible only in so far as we and they are Hellenized, which means that we both recognize reason as capable of apprehending reality.
Reilly contends that the Biblical power to name the animals "is symptomatic of the difference between the two views of man in Genesis and the Qur'an."
The power to name is, in a way, the power to know. Joseph Pieper once wrote, "Reality becomes intelligible through words. Man speaks so that through naming things what is real may become intelligible." If you cannot name a thing, can you know it? Can reality be intelligible to you without this power?
Interesting commentary and worthy of contemplation.
Vaclav Havel was a man worthy of the Shakespearean eulogy:
He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
It is often noted that Havel was a "mere" playwright before his activism against communism thrust him into the forefront of politics. But Havel existed in the interim of politics, in the revolutionary moment when character is of greater weight than policy. His instincts for politics, understood classically, arose from his understanding of the humanities and served well his fellow citizens.
The Czech Republic now mourns the passing of a national treasure. Their national sorrow is unique because men of Havel's stature do not largely exist elsewhere in the world. May they take solace in the knowledge of their great fortune in having had such a man for so long. He defined an era of hope and the world is poorer for his passing.
Update: For a powerful recitation of Havel's life and times, read Reason's "Velvet President."