Last month, the first annual Wheatley Summer Seminar on Civic Virtue was held at the BYU Barlow Center in downtown Washington D.C. For several hours, Dr. Daniel N. Robinson, a Senior Fellow of the Institution and an eminent intellectual historian, spoke to a packed audience and expanded on the nature of rights and their corresponding responsibilities. Most attendees were law students preparing for careers in both the public and private sectors. All reported that they were inspired by the breadth and depth of Dr. Robinson’s insights on the defense of rights and the responsibilities citizenship requires.
Dr. Robinson drew on historical sources including Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, and Thomas Jefferson to support the claim that all beings have natural, inherent rights. He also spoke at length on the logic of the natural rights of citizens. Robinson argued that rights could not come from any source but the person—not even the state or fellow human beings. “The answer to the question isn’t where you get X, you always had X. You need a polis, a just state, to start perfecting what was there at the outset.”