21 October 2020

Preparing for leadership

Recent correspondence with a colleague prompted me to revisit an article I wrote back in 2007: Making the Most of College: Preparing for Leadership. An excerpt:

So how should you, as an undergraduate student, go about preparing for focused political service or, more modestly, for responsible citizenship? First and foremost, take advantage of the academic resources available where you are. Attend classes, not merely to fulfil requirements, but to enter into an ongoing conversation transcending the course you are in at the moment. Plato's celebrated dialogue, The Republic, tells the story of what must have been an all-night exchange between Socrates and several friends over the nature of justice. Of course, the dialogue eventually comes to an end, but the larger conversation it sparked has continued in some fashion and in many settings for two-and-a-half millennia. We are still arguing and debating about justice, and we are unlikely to give it up this side of the Second Advent . . . .

No matter what sort of university you are enrolled in: Read! Read everything you can get your hands on, especially works addressing the larger questions of political life. Start with Plato and Aristotle. Read the Bible on justice and political authority. Grapple with Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Wrestle with Machiavelli and Hobbes. Enter into the worlds of Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Marx. And, although you may not find such writings in a "Great Books" programme, read Christian political thinkers like Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, James W. Skillen, Paul Marshall, and Bob Goudzwaard to acquire a firm grounding in a biblical approach to politics.

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