Category: Events

On December 1st, Acton welcomed Cato Institute Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies Ilya Shapiro to the Mark Murray Auditorium to speak on the role of the federal judiciary in the growth of government. The lecture, delivered as part of the 2015 Acton Lecture Series, emphasized the importance of judges’ both having the right constitutional theories as well as the willingness to enforce them. Shapiro argues that too much judicial “restraint” — like that of Chief Justice John Roberts in the Obamacare cases — has led not only to the unchecked growth of government, but also toxic judicial confirmation battles in the Senate and even our nation’s current populist moment.

We’re pleased to share Shapiro’s full presentation below.

Few questions loom as large for parents and students these days as the question of how to afford a college education. College costs have been rising for decades, and all too often, students rely heavily on student loans and graduate with significant debt loads that they spend years paying off.

Alex Chediak, professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University, has tackled this question and provided parents and students with an invaluable guide in his book Beating the College Debt Trap, and on November 21st he joined us at the Acton Institute’s Mark Murray Auditorium to share his insights.

We’re pleased to share the video of his presentation below.

As we enter into a new year here at Acton, we still have some items from 2016 to share with you. On October 3rd, we were pleased to welcome Karl Zinsmeister, Vice President of Publications at the Philanthropy Roundtable, to speak on the importance of philanthropy in the United States.

Philanthropy in America is a bursting, bubbling impulse that has vital effects on almost every sector of our society. Private action to solve public problems is one of the practices that most distinguishes the U.S. from other nations, and continues to play a crucial role in keeping our communities healthy and our economy burgeoning. Zinsmeister shares the inspiring story of American philanthropy drawing from the recently published Almanac of American Philanthropy, which he was instrumental in compiling.

You can watch the presentation below.

Ryan Anderson delivers the annual Calihan Lecture

Ryan Anderson delivers the annual Calihan Lecture

Leading thinkers from around the world along with other attendees gathered at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London to attend the Acton Institute’s ‘Crisis of Liberty in the West’ conference on December 1st.  The theme of the conference was centered on the economic and political struggles that North American, European, and other Western nations are currently facing.  The conference featured many key leaders in the areas of theology, conservative social thought, and economics among others.  The entire conference was recorded and can be viewed online at the Acton website.

One of the key speakers at the event was 2016 Novak Award winner Ryan Anderson.  The Novak Award recognizes new outstanding research by scholars early in their academic careers who demonstrate outstanding intellectual merit in advancing the understanding of theology’s connection to human dignity, the importance of limited government, religious liberty, and economic freedom.  Every year, the Novak Award winner makes a formal presentation on such questions at an annual public forum known as the Calihan Lecture.  This year that took place at the ‘Crisis of Liberty in the West’ conference in London where Anderson was recognized for winning the Novak Award and was given the $10,000 that comes as a part of the award.

This year’s Calihan Lecture given by Anderson focused on different ways that liberty has been taken away and how liberty can be reconstructed.   First, Anderson explained three different ways that our liberty has been taken away; bad intellectual defenses of freedom, the collapse of civil society that promotes human flourishing, and cronyism.  Anderson says this about cronyism:

Many of the criticisms levelled at “free markets” are in reality directed at the exact opposite: crony capitalism, the collusion of Big Business and Big Government, frequently aided and abetted by Big Media and Big Law. Businesses that are too big to fail, that rig the economic system in their favor, that hire the best lobbyists to get government to regulate their industry in their favor, to create barriers to entry for competitors and newcomers, to weaken the labor market. Cronyism takes place whenever these groups collude to set the system up against the little guy and the new guy, when they go outside of transparent normal operating procedures to get a result in their favor, at the expense of the common good.


According to a common political narrative prior to the 2016 elections, progressivism has been ascendent and conservatism has been on an inevitable decline in America in significant part due to demographic changes. Among those changes is the growth of the Latino population, which is assumed to be a natural constituency for progressive politics. In the wake of the election, this may be one among many narratives that need to be re-thought.

Evangelicals are one of the fastest growing segments in Latino communities, and they demonstrates a high affinity to a pro-growth, free oriented agenda. Among Hispanics who affiliate with evangelical denominations, 40 percent identify as conservative against just 25 percent who identify as liberal. Daniel Garza, Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative, joined us here at the Acton Institute on November 17th to argue that past failures to garner support for market ideas among Latino populations have not been due to a rejection of those ideas by Latinos; rather, the failures have been the result of a lack of effort to promote the virtues of free-market, pro-liberty ideas within that community.

You can view Garza’s full Acton Lecture Series presentation via the video player below.

On November 3rd, Acton welcomed Victoria C. G. Coates, cultural historian and Ph.D, to talk about her argument that democracy has had a unique capacity to inspire some of the greatest artistic achievements of western civilization. She lays out this thesis in her latest book, David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art. In her Acton Lecture Series address, Coates takes as her case studies Michelangelo’s “David” and Albert Bierstadt’s “Rocky Mountains: Lander’s Peak“, describing the roles each played in their respective civilizations as well as the underlying political meanings of each piece.

You can watch Victoria Coates’ lecture via the video player below.

On October 27, 2016, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico addressed the audience at the Acton Institute’s 26th Anniversary Dinner in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In his remarks, he reflected on the state of American politics and culture, the societal crisis we find ourselves in, and proposed a way forward based on a vision of a free and virtuous society.

You can view his entire address below.