Defining Democracy: The Role of University in Democracy

Why is it that revolutions and social movements across the world regularly begin with the actions of university students and professors? From calls for secularism in Iran to greater self determination in Hong Kong, university students have stood ready to sacrifice in service of missions greater than themselves.  The role that universities have played in […]

Defining Democracy: Rule of Law

It was John Adams who wrote that a republic is “a government of laws, and not of men.” His words pointed toward a fundamental proposition that was at the core of our new nation: that no one was above the law and everyone under it must be treated the same. Indeed, our founders had just […]

Defining Democracy: Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson enshrined the “pursuit of happiness” as a basic right, writing: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But why did […]

Defining Democracy: Fourth Amendment

Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment is the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. And although most of us probably don’t know what that means exactly, it’s hard to imagine a world without this important protection. We tend to relax when we’re at home, secure in the knowledge that the government cannot […]

Defining Democracy: Civic Duty

Civic Duty

When we step into a ballot booth, and step out to receive our “I voted” sticker, we’ve cast our choice for our representative. We’ve fulfilled our responsibility – or have we? Elections aren’t the only step – or even the final step – in building a democracy. In fact, elections are merely the first step, […]

Defining Democracy: Accountability


Let’s imagine that you are waiting in a long line to renew your driver’s license, where the basic rule is “first come, first served.” If a latecomer cuts the line ahead of you, you—and everyone else in the hot and sweaty government building—will quite rightly ask them “why did you do that? By what right […]

Defining Democracy: Federalism

In Federalist #39, James Madison explained that the new federal government would only have the powers delegated to it, saying that “its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only.” Meanwhile, the states would retain ALL other powers, keeping “a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.” Madison was responding to the states’ rights concerns […]

Defining Democracy: Freedom of Speech

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech . . .” Indeed, freedom of speech is an all-pervasive facet of the American experience and the backbone of our democratic system. Many liberties that we […]

Defining Democracy: Moderation

By Edward Radzivilovskiy Moderation seems to be getting a bad rap these days. In an increasingly polarized political climate, compromise is often seen as cowardly. Taking time to think about an issue before giving an answer is sometimes interpreted as being indecisive. But what does “moderation” really mean? Some call it selling out but is […]

Defining Democracy: Authoritarianism


Censored news. Secret police. An empty refrigerator. Little or no electricity. These are the grim images that come to mind at the mention of the words “authoritarian” or “tyrannical” to describe a society, a society where the human spirit is crushed. Certainly, there are states just like that (such as North Korea). But, for the […]