Honorable Clint Bolick’s Constitution Day speech at Arizona State University Thursday evening reflected the promotion of civic education at the newly established School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.
The school invited Bolick, a 59-year-old associate justice in the Arizona Supreme Court, to speak on the importance of federalism for its inaugural Constitution Day lecture, celebrating the 230th anniversary of the final day of the Constitution Convention on September 17, 1787.
Bolick’s speech embraced the importance of civic education and civic responsibility, core principles of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, according to its director, Professor Paul Carrese.
“We hope to generate some excitement and debate to reinvigorate that nexus or that connection of liberal education and civic education,” Carrese said.
Bolick emphasized the importance of bipartisanship as it relates to federalism. He discussed projects he worked on, including the 2014 Right to Try referendum in Arizona, which made experimental drugs accessible to terminally ill patients. Bolick called that specific project not red or blue, but bright purple.
That same bipartisan attitude towards civic education and engagement relates to federalism.
“We all have a personal vested interest in federalism,” Bolick said. “We cannot have red-state federalism without blue-state federalism, nor blue without red.”
Bipartisan, educated discussion is what Carrese and his faculty hope to promote in the school and in their different speaker series and lectures that they will have throughout the year. Just as Bolick called federalism the fabric of constitution tapestry, Carrese warned of the destruction of civic fabric engrained in each citizen.
“Our civic fabric is fraying,” Carrese said. “And so we would like to think that we will generate some attention as to why this is happening and also, if possible, remedy.”
Carol McNamara, associate director for public programs and senior lecturer, believes the easiest way to mend this fray is through civic education.
“To become an educated human being is the first, most important goal of the university education,” McNamara said. “But to educate people with a mind to being active citizens, civic students and civic leaders.”
William Riffe, a 20-year-old small business owner in Tempe, felt that the discussion of federalism was a discussion of the diversity of the United States and its core values of individuality and freedom. As a young person, he said the call to civic engagement and education was crucial with recent trends in voter turnout.
“I think it’s really important considering we have such a low voting average right now anyways, so people don’t understand the importance of their own vote, and when they do vote, they’re not totally sure how to be educated,” Riffe said. “We’ve got a lot of different news sources that aren’t reliable, so I think having a really solid education and understanding what’s what is important.”
Revitalization and reinvigoration of civic education is what Carrese and his faculty members hope to do through speaker events such as Thursday’s speech with Bolick.