A Message from the Director
The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy was founded in 2006 in order to advance a sympathetic knowledge of the United States of America and its roots in the Western philosophical and theological traditions. Housed within the Department of Government, it hosts an active public program of speakers, colloquia, roundtables, conferences, as well as informal events and activities oriented especially to undergraduate Student Fellows of the Program. The aim of the program is to cultivate both good citizenship and good character through intellectual discussion as well as the promotion of an aspiration to a life of virtue.
As its name would suggest, much of the guiding spirit of the Tocqueville Forum is inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocratic visitor to the United States during the 1830s. Tocqueville’s masterpiece – Democracy in America – sought to understand and explore liberal democracy in the most expansive terms, seeing not only in its official institutions, its Constitution, and its political system sources of good and ill, but casting his net widely to explore democracy’s mores – religion, family, literature, history, philosophy, the arts of association, and so on. For Tocqueville, the future of American democracy depended finally on its healthy mores – what we would today call “culture” – and so, appropriately, the Tocqueville Forum explores not only ideas that are in the obvious sense “political,” but broader phenomena that support a vibrant democratic culture.
Like Tocqueville, the Forum has and will place a special emphasis upon exploring the relationship of liberal democracy and Roman Catholicism. As a part of a Roman Catholic and Jesuit University, the Tocqueville Forum takes seriously a special responsibility to provide Georgetown students with thoughtful reflections and discussions of the ways that the Catholic tradition informs and supports constitutional democracy, in addition to ways that Catholicism can provide a critical lens into the shortcomings or potential weaknesses of liberal democracy.
In its short existence, the Tocqueville Forum has become a major presence on the campus of Georgetown University, providing students, faculty, administrators, and staff - as well as the broader Washington D.C. community and beyond - a rich and varied program of speakers and ideas that expand the range of voices being heard on campus, while remaining true to the civic and religious aspirations of Georgetown University.