Professor Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, was awarded the Irving Kristol Award at the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Annual Dinner held at the National Building Museum on September 28.
The Irving Kristol Award was established in honor of AEI senior fellow Irving Kristol. Replacing the Francis Boyer Award first given in 1977 to President Gerald Ford, the Kristol Award is AEI’s highest honor, conferred annually since 2002 “on an individual who has undertaken exceptional work to improve public policy, enhance the welfare of our society and culture, or bolster our understanding of complex issues through unique contributions to the competition of ideas,” according to AEI. Past recipients include President Ronald Reagan, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
“Dr. George’s career has been defined by the rare combination that marks a true public intellectual: deep scholarly rigor and broad public impact,” AEI President Arthur Brooks said in an AEI press release. “His expert scholarship on questions of jurisprudence, the Constitution, natural law, and the intersection of religion, morality, and culture spans countless books, papers, and lectures and commands great admiration from the academy.”
In lieu of a speech, Professor George joined Arthur Brooks in a keynote conversation during the Annual Dinner. When asked about the perceived persecution of conservative thinkers on college campuses, Professor George denied any malfeasance directed his way, but agreed that “There are people who have not been nearly so lucky. There are people who ought to be holding chairs at Yale or Stanford or Harvard or Princeton who are not, mainly because they’ve been victims of discrimination. And that’s wrong.”
Asked directly by Arthur Brooks, “What do you see for the future of the conservative movement?” Professor George demurred, since “one of the things that makes me a conservative is that I do not believe that the future is determined.” He did, however, say that “conservatism has some very, very important principles that must never be lost. And so it’s going to be our job — no matter what happens on [Election Day] to make them meaningful in our policy and public life.”
George went on to say that he was optimistic for the future because of his students at Princeton. He remarked how “working with my students [makes it] hard to be down.” George praised the “brilliant and courageous students out there standing up, speaking out, defying the political correctness, and frankly, winning the campus debate.”
In attendance to celebrate Professor George were political figures such as Senator Ted Cruz ‘92, Professor of Politics and International Affairs Emerita Anne-Marie Slaughter, Vice President Dick Cheney, Irving Kristol’s son Bill Kristol, and Senator Ben Sasse. A number of current and former students attended as well. True to his didactic vocation, following the Annual Dinner, Professor George concluded, “Last night’s Irving Kristol Award dinner was filled with wonderful things, none more wonderful than getting together with so many of my students and former students.”