SDSU hosts lecture series


Pulitzer Prize-winning historian jack Rakove, of Standford University, will kick off a series of lectures at SDSU on the subject of American political ideas with a lecture titled “What Did the Constitution Originally Mean?”

Rakove will speak in the Volstorff Ballroom in the University Student Union Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m. The lecture series is in correlation with the Remnant Trust’s loan of 50 classic political documents, which are on display and open for viewing in the archive of Briggs Library.

The Remnant Trust is a public educational foundation that shares a collection of original and first edition works on political philosophy. The documents on loan to SDSU will be at the Briggs Library until the end of November.

Rakove is a W.R. Coe Professor of History and American Studies and professor of political science at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1980. He earned a doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1975. His writings focus on the revolutionary origins of American constitutionalism, the political thought and career of James Madison, and the role of history in constitutional interpretation and politics.

Rakove won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in History for his book “Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution”. The book dissects the original intent of the Founding Fathers and the degree to which those intentions can be certain today. The book also analyzes how far lawyers and judges can go in determinig those original intentions and applying them to current court cases.

“Having Professor Rakove come to Brookings is a wonderful opportunity for our students, faculty and the general public,” said Robert Burns, SDSU professor of political science. “With two Supreme Court positions currently open and many contentious issues facing the justices, having the insights and knowledge of such a wide-ranging expert on the meaning of the Constitution provides a rare opportunity for us.”

Rakove’s other books include “James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic,” “The Beginnings of National Politics” and “The Unfinished Election of 2000.”

Rakove spent nearly 12 years working on his Pulitzer Prize book.

Four lecturers will follow Rakove throughout October and November. Second in the series is Robert Burns, who will speak on “The Bill of Rights: Continuing Challenges and Opportunities.” Burns regularly teaches a course on civil rights and civil liberties. He will discuss the Bill of Rights as a foundation for rights and liberties in the United States, the challenges that have occurred to them and the defenses that have been mounted to protect them. His lecture is scheduled for Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in room 100A of the Agriculture Hall.

The third lecture, “Puritans and Pluralists,” will be given by Ann Marie Bahr, SDSU professor of religion and philosophy, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the South Dakota Art Museum. Bahr is the author of two recently published books, “Christianity” and “Indigenous Religions.” Bahr writes a weekly newspaper column on religious subjects. She will discuss the colonial foundations of thought in America and about the relationship between political and religious values.

On Oct. 25, John Taylor, an English professor and linguist who teaches courses on language and rhetoric at SDSU, will discuss “The Politics of American English.” The lecture will focus on the time from the Revolution through the early national period of American history as a prelude to continuing development of American political thought and rhetoric. His presentation will be given at 7:30 p.m. in the South Dakota Art Museum.

Writer and historian John Miller will end the series Nov. 1 with a meditation on “Three Great Traditions of American Political Philosophy” as an aid in considering the 50 political documents on loan from the Remnant Trust. Miller is a professor emeritus of history at SDSU. His lecture is scheduled at 7:30 in the South Dakota Art Museum.

“We are thrilled to have Professor Rakove and such a distinguished list of speakers to bring attention to the classic political writings loaned to us by the Remnant Trust,” said Steve Marquardt, project director and dean of libraries. “We expect to have large audiences for the programs, including students, faculty and the general public.”

The series is funded by a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council.

All programs are free and open to the public. For more information on the lecture series, contact Steve Marquardt at 688-5557.

For more information on the Remnant Trust, visit