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Constitution, Character and National Identity

Recorded on April 13, 2005

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

America's character as a nation and as a people is fundamentally defined by the inextricable connection between our country's Constitution and its "constitution," that combination of qualities, dispositions, habits and self-understanding, which constitutes our national identity. This national identity is weakened and its demise threatened by significant changes in what we think and how we act, specifically in what is believed by our thinking classes, and by changes in how we govern ourselves, how and whether we pray, and how and what we teach our children and our students. The decline of this identity has vast implications for our formal Constitution and the future of self-government. But all is not lost. Where there is doubt as to our national meaning, it must be defined again, and the constitution of America's citizens-seen in the energy of its entrepreneurs, the vibrancy of its churches, and the valor of its soldiers-is the very ground of that wider renewal.

Larry P. Arnn is President of Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. Previously the president of The Claremont Institute, Dr. Arnn is the author of Liberty and Learning: The Evolution of American Education (2004). He is on the board of trustees of The Heritage Foundation, The Henry Salvatori Center of Claremont McKenna College, The Center for Individual Rights and The Claremont Institute.

This lecture is the first in a series to consider the meaning and status of America's common national identity, and to define an agenda for restoring that meaning as the central idea of America's politics and political culture.