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Robert P. George: The Constitution and Civic Virtue

Robert P. George

George discussed what institutions—beginning with the family—instill the habits of mind that make for good citizenship.

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Renowned Professor at Princeton University, Robert P. George, led a thought-provoking lecture at Brigham Young University, discussing how personal virtues are necessary for liberty and self-government.

Constitutional structural constraints on power are necessary for the maintenance of republican government and ordered liberty, but Professor George argued that they are not sufficient. Certain virtues in the people, intellectual and moral, are no less necessary. And yet, the political order, however well-constituted it may be, cannot play more than a minor role in imparting these virtues. The major role must be played by what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons” of civil society—the private associations, beginning with the family. These associations are primary in providing health, education, and welfare, and for transmitting to each new generation the habits of mind and heart that are necessary for people to lead successful lives and be good citizens.