The Claremont Institute, a conservative, Claremont-based think tank, will host former Vice President Dick Cheney as keynote speaker at their 30th anniversary dinner Mar. 27.
Cheney will address a crowd of 300 to 500 people at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Although Cheney was hospitalized for a mild heart attack earlier in the week, he was released on Wednesday and should still be able to speak at the event.
“He’s among the most articulate spokesmen for conservative government in the last decade,” Claremont Institute President Brian Kennedy said. “I think he’s among the most interesting Americans there are.”
Kennedy added that Cheney is definitely a controversial figure.
“He has a personality that draws the ire of liberals,” he said. “There are very few people in political life who make a difference who are not controversial.”
The Institute, located a mile west of the Claremont Colleges on Foothill Avenue, was founded in 1979 by four graduate students of Harry Jaffa, then a professor of government at Claremont Graduate University.
Jaffa was interested in making his students into “real scholars,” Kennedy said, and wanted them to learn the historical foundations of American politics. These four students of his, Kennedy said, felt they had two choices of what to do with their historically-grounded education. They could either become college professors or find a way to teach the values they needed to keep in mind during the Cold War era.
“The Conservative movement knew what they were against,” Kennedy said, “but not really what they were for.”
The Institute was founded to help guide that movement, he said, and to give new life to America’s founding principles by educating the public about their importance. The most important aspect of these principles, Kennedy said, is the idea that all people are created equal.
“That’s what made America great,” Kennedy said. “Other countries don’t have the same conception of equality…much of Conservatism doesn’t appreciate that, and they need to, we think.”The Claremont Institute, he added, focuses on establishing a basis for conservative ideology.
“We often say we’re conservative, but we get to define what that means,” Kennedy said. For the Claremont Institute, he said conservatism means a “recovery of [the] Constitutional government” that progressivism has deteriorated.
Currently, the Institute is focused on national security—Kennedy said they support an expanded missile defense strategy—and the Bush administration’s management of the War on Terror, which Kennedy said was likely “misguided.”
“It’s one thing to sacrifice the life of an American soldier to defend the United States,” he said. “It’s another if you’re trying to improve another country…it probably was not our job to do.”The Institute’s flagship publication, the Claremont Review of Books (CRB), is its major means of expressing and dispersing its views and research. A combination of essays and book reviews by leading scholars from across the country, the publication’s mission is to address the most important and controversial political issues of the day.
“We take books seriously,” Kennedy said, adding that the Claremont Institute has a reputation of being very academic and intellectual.
The CRB is distributed to over 10,000 subscribers, including policy makers, congressmen, and “opinion leaders” such as columnists and radio hosts. It is also available online free of charge, where Kennedy estimates it is seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers.
“It’s funny to think that from Claremont, Califonia, we’re having this kind of influence,” Kennedy said. “But we are.”
To further its goal of educating the public about the founding principles, the Institute offers two scholarships for students and professionals.
Each summer, the Institute receives between 80 and 100 applications for its Publius Fellowships, which are usually awarded to several recent college graduates. These students travel to Claremont to receive a rigorous education in American politics, reading original texts and federal papers and then debating and discussing these ideas.
The Institute’s Lincoln Fellowship is awarded to a young professional who best exhibits the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln, whose policies and principles the Institute venerates. These fellows also travel to the Institute to learn.
Kennedy said the Institute likely attracts the attention of students because it has a large network of esteemed professors at a wide variety of colleges and universities. The Institute does not recruit, and is not affiliated with any college, including the Claremont Colleges.
The CRB used to be available at Honnold/Mudd Library, but no longer is, likely because of a rule against the distribution of free publications at the library, Kennedy said. Charles Johnson CM ’11, who is currently a CRB fellow at the Institute, added that the publication is available at the Athenaeum and the Salvatori Center.
Johnson said the Institute does not have a large presence on the Claremont Colleges campus, although “most of the government department has written something for the Claremont Review of Books.”
Johnson said this was likely because most college students are on the political left, and also because the Claremont Institute does not always have the economic freedom to leave behind its research and projects to deal with the campuses in an involved way.
The Institute is funded completely by donations from individuals and organizations, and has a budget of $4 million. The Institute does not make donations, but uses its budget solely to fund its projects.