The Chicago Initiative

The Chicago Initiative is a growing regional network that brings together faculty, students, and donors to work cooperatively to advance the education students need to be engaged and thoughtful citizens.

JMC’s Chicago Initiative so far includes eleven institutions and 75 professors in political science, history, and law. We continue to work to build partnerships in the Chicago area so that more students have the opportunity to study the great ideas of American history. Our mission is for students to graduate prepared to continue Chicago’s long tradition of civic pride.

A Model for the Nation 

Working together, Chicago area educators and donors provide students a deeper understanding of our nation’s founding principles, a prerequisite to becoming responsible citizens. Our approach leverages both academic talent and philanthropic investment, providing for a transformation of civic education in the region.

The Chicago Initiative provides a template for partnerships between donors and professors in other regional hubs around the country, such as Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C..

Supreme Court Justices Steven Breyer and Antonin Scalia at IIT

Illinois Institute Technology of Chicago-Kent College of Law hosted Supreme Court Justices Breyer and Scalia at two separate events. Justice Breyer spoke on his best-selling book, Making Our Democracy Work – A Judge’s View, and the late Justice Scalia gave a lecture entitled “Property and the Rule of Law.”

Lawrence Lessig at Northwestern

Professor Lawrence Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, spoke on the Framers’ view of corruption. The lecture was co-sponsored by IIT and Northwestern and was held at the latter’s downtown Chicago campus.

Stephen Presser and Martin Redish at Lake Forest

In advance of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, Northwestern law professors Stephen Presser and Martin Redish debated the constitutionality of a federal mandate to purchase health insurance.

Gordon Wood at IIT

For the launch of the Benjamin Franklin Project, JMC’s partner program at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gordon Wood delivered a lecture on “What Made the Founders Different.”

Alberto Coll and John Yoo at DePaul University

Professor Alberto Coll of DePaul and Professor John Yoo of Berkley Law debated the limits of executive power in the Constitution.

Newberry Library Seminar Series

new seminar on American Political Thought at Chicago’s Newberry Library. Eric Nelson of Harvard University spoke on Hebraic law and the American founding, and Danielle Allen of Princeton University spoke on John Adams and the pursuit of happiness.

Eric Slauter at Northwestern

Northwestern hosted Eric Slauter, University of Chicago, who spoke on the research he conducted for his book, The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution. The discussion continued with a consideration of several documents related to the Constitution, including the famous “Remember the Ladies” letter from Abigail to John Adams.

Amity Shlaes at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law hosted a lecture by Forbes columnist and New York Times best-selling author, Amity Shlaes. The lecture was entitled “The Great Chicken Flap: How the Schechter Poultry Case Changed America and Showed its Possibilities.” Shlaes is the author of Coolidge (Harper, 2013), The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (Harper, 2007), and The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It (Random House, 1999).

IIT’s Benjamin Franklin Project’s Conference

IIT’s Benjamin Franklin Project held a conference, entitled “Infrastructures of Creativity: A Conference on Institutions and Innovation in the 18th and 21st Centuries.” The event is co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology partner programs.

Stephen Moore at DePaul

DePaul University hosted a debate between Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal and Alberto Coll of the DePaul Law School. They will debate the proposition: “The European Union should be abolished – it has done more harm than good to human freedom.”

University of Notre Dame – Constitutional Studies

Michael Zuckert, Director

Committed to integrating theoretical and empirical approaches to political knowledge, Constitutional Studies is a subfield in the Department of Political Science. The subfield explores different conceptions of the public interest, constitutional interpretation, and constitutional construction.

Northwestern University – The Alexander Hamilton Project

Laura Beth Nielsen, Director

The Alexander Hamilton Project promotes the study of law and economics, particularly as it relates to the philosophical foundations of American political thought, American Founding Principles, and the Constitution. The Project associates itself with Alexander Hamilton because of his cosmopolitan roots, connection to American financial systems, and influence on American government.

Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law – Kent Forum

Harold Krent, Director

The Kent Forum is dedicated to enriching the legal curriculum at the College of Law with courses and extracurricular activities that explore the legal roots of the Constitution and the American political system.

Roosevelt University – Montesquieu Forum

Stuart Warner, Director

The Montesquieu Forum’s principal purpose is to facilitate and further the study of the Classical and European heritage informing the American founding period.  In particular, the Forum focuses on the contributions of thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Polybius, Plutarch, Francis Bacon, Renee Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, Montesquieu, and the Bible.

Lake Forest College

Evan Oxman

JMC funds courses and programming at Lake Forest that explore the American Founding. JMC faculty partner Evan Oxman teaches these courses and has held debates on Constitutional issues.

Carthage College – Western Heritage Program

D. Ben DeSmidt, Director

The Western Heritage Program offers courses and events focused on the Western intellectual tradition, particularly as it informs American citizenship and a thorough understanding of the roots of the American Founding.

Loyola University – The David Hume Forum

John Danford, Director

The David Hume Forum aims to encourage study in the roots of the American Founding, with particular emphasis on the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment.

University of Chicago

Ralph Lerner, Benjamin Franklin Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought

With funding from JMC, Ralph Lerner teaches courses on American figures who have shaped American political thought and character.

DePaul University – Center for the Constitution and American Foreign Policy

Alberto Coll, Director

The Center for the Constitution and American Foreign Policy seeks to start a fresh conversation about the direction of American grand strategy and foreign policy from the perspective of the Founders and the values of prudence and moderation implicit in the Constitution.

The Newberry Library

D. Bradford Hunt, Vice President for Research and Academic Programs

A world-renowned independent research library in Chicago, The Newberry offers readers and extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, maps, music, manuscripts, and other printed material spanning six centuries. The Newberry hosts the American Political Thought Seminar Series, which provides a forum for introducing and discussing topics on the political history and philosophy of the United States.

Launched July 2016, the Harvey L. Miller Founding Civics Initiative provides Chicagoland high school teachers with access to world-class graduate education, training and resources to help them better educate their students in the history and ideas at the heart of American politics.

Working with Chicago-area institutions of higher learning, the courses and seminars prepare teachers to educate high school students in the ideas in the Declaration of Independence, the core political and economic institutions established by the Constitution, and the intellectual and historical framework of the American founding.

Each program brings JMC partner professors together with teachers to develop exciting, engaging classes and curricula that help high school students connect America’s founding documents and related texts to contemporary issues they will study in civics and face as citizens.