JSU presents ‘Tocqueville Lecture Series’ on American democracy

Nicholas Buccola, pictured, a professor of political science at Linfield University in McMinnville, Ore. and author of "The Fire is Upon Us," gave a presentation at a lecture series hosted by the Jacksonville State University Department of Political Science. (Courtesy of Linfield University)Nicholas Buccola, pictured, a professor of political science at Linfield University in McMinnville, Ore. and author of "The Fire is Upon Us," gave a presentation at a lecture series hosted by the Jacksonville State University Department of Political Science. (Courtesy of Linfield University)

Ally Morrison, Correspondent

The first installment of the Tocqueville Lecture Series discussing American democracy kicked off on Thursday, hosted by the Jacksonville State University Department of Political Science.

The department welcomed Nicholas Buccola as its first guest presenter, a professor of political science at Linfield University in McMinnville, Ore., where he teaches courses in political theory and public law. Buccola is also an author and lecturer who is well-versed in governmental history.

“His essays have appeared in scholarly journals including The Review of Politics and Political Thought as well as popular outlets such as The New York Times, Salon, The Baltimore Sun and Dissent,” said Ben Gross, a JSU professor of political science, of Buccola.

He continues by referencing a few of Buccola’s works, such as “The Fire Is Upon Us”, along with “The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty”. 

The lecture is funded by a grant from the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History, a public charity that “works with professors and educators to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn the history and principles at the heart of American political life,” according to the organization’s website.

The goal of the lecture was to explore the historical and political inspiration behind Buccola’s new book, “The Fire Is Upon Us,” which will detail various causes and intense debates of the racial divide which exists in America, and how this has influenced citizens’ accessibility to the well-known concept of ‘The American Dream.”

“What our history means, and our understanding of our history, manifests itself and our responsibility to the present,” said Buccola.

In his lecture, Buccola explores in detail and compares the political career of conservative author and political figure William F. Buckley Jr, to that of the American author and civil rights activist James Baldwin. 

William Buckley can be characterized as the “founding father of American conservatism,” while James Baldwin was focused mainly on the struggle of liberation among black men in America during the same time period. It is important to note that while Baldwin and Buckley had major political differences, they shared one thing in common: an immense love for the country they call home.

The clash of tension between these two during their world famous debate at Cambridge in 1965 was notable. With the national election just around the corner and the current state of unrest our country is facing racially, the debate between Buckley and Baldwin serves to understand the root of the issues at hand.

After analyzing the lives and careers of Buckley and Baldwin, Buccola opened up the floor to questions. When his lecture invited viewers to send in responses, Buccola was taken back to see the comment section erupting with inquisition. 

Asked by a viewer if Buccola could relate his presentation to the future of American democracy, he said, “History is present in everything we do. Thinking about [history] is worth doing because it matters to how we make sense of our responsibilities politically and as citizens.”

The lecture presented an opportunity to students and faculty of Jacksonville State University to engage with Buccola on the relevance of that history today. By supplying input and asking questions, a well-rounded dialogue of social justice and civil rights was created. 

By analyzing the important works of both parties, and watching snippets of the infamous political debate between James Baldwin and William Buckley, listeners were able to examine the significance of racial tensions in America.

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