Robert P. George
|Robert P. George|
Robert P. George
|Born||Robert Peter George
July 10, 1955
|Occupation||Professor of jurisprudence|
|Awards||Presidential Citizens Medal
Robert Peter George (born July 10, 1955) is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, where he lectures on constitutional interpretation, civil liberties and philosophy of law. He also serves as the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. George has been called America's "most influential conservative Christian thinker." He is the Herbert W. Vaughan senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute and was a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School.
George grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, the grandson of immigrant coal miners. He was educated at Swarthmore College (BA), Harvard Law School (JD), Harvard Divinity School (MTS), and Oxford University (DPhil). At Oxford he studied under John Finnis and Joseph Raz.
George joined the faculty of Princeton University as an instructor in 1985. The following year he became a tenure-track assistant professor. In 1988–89 he spent a sabbatical leave at Oxford University as a Visiting Fellow in Law, working on his book Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1993. The book challenged key premises of contemporary liberal political philosophy, and drew praise even from thinkers working firmly within the liberal tradition. One prominent political philosopher, Jeffrie Murphy, stated that “Robert George has, I must admit, made me nervous about my commitments to liberalism.” In 1994, George was awarded tenure at Princeton and promoted to the rank of associate professor. In 1999, he was elevated to the rank of professor and installed in Princeton’s McCormick Chair of Jurisprudence, a celebrated endowed professorship previously held by Woodrow Wilson, Edward S. Corwin, Alpheus T. Mason, and Walter F. Murphy. George founded Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions in 2000 and continues to serve as its director. George has been described by the New Yorker as "a widely respected conservative legal philosopher" who has "played [intellectual] godfather to right-leaning students on campus."
Since 2007, George has been teaching with his friend and colleague Cornel West, a leading left-wing public intellectual, in undergraduate seminars on leading thinkers in Western intellectual history. Readings have included Sophocles's Antigone, Plato's Gorgias, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Marx and Engels’s The Communist Manifesto, Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, Strauss’s Natural Right and History, and King’s "Letter from Birmingham Jail". The George-West collaboration has drawn attention both on and off campus, and is widely noted as an example of how scholars can work together across ideological lines to enhance the quality of higher education. However, these seminars are limited to 18 students, many fewer than want to attend them.
Public service and professional activity
In 2012 George was appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2013, he was elected Chairman of the Commission. In announcing his election, outgoing Chairwoman Katrina Lantos Swett, a Democrat appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, praised George as “a true human rights champion whose compassion for victims of oppression and wisdom about international religious freedom shine through all we have accomplished.” He served from 1993 to 1998 as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and from 2002 to 2009 as a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. He has served on UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), of which he remains a corresponding member. He is a member of the boards of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the American Enterprise Institute, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and several other organizations. He serves on the editorial boards of Touchstone, First Things, and Public Discourse magazines, as well as several academic journals. He is of counsel to the law firm of Robinson & McElwee PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Supreme Court Justice and former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan praised George as "one of the nation’s most respected legal theorists", saying that the respect he had gained was due to "his sheer brilliance, the analytic power of his arguments, the range of his knowledge", and "a deeply principled conviction, a profound and enduring integrity".
George twice served as Governor of the West Virginia Democratic Youth Conference, and attended the 1976 Democratic National Convention as an alternate delegate. George moved to the right in the 1980s, largely due to his views on abortion, and left the Democratic Party as a result of what he saw as its increasingly strong commitment to legal abortion and its public funding, and his growing skepticism about the effectiveness of Great Society social welfare projects in Appalachia and other low income rural and urban areas. George is founder of the American Principles Project, which aims to create a grass-roots movement around his ideas. He is a past chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, an advocacy group opposed to same-sex marriage, and co-founder of the Renewal Forum, an organization fighting the sexual trafficking and commercial exploitation of women and children.
George drafted the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto signed by Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical leaders that "promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage."
George was threatened with death by pro-abortion extremist Theodore Shulman. The threat targeted Priests For Life director the Rev. Frank Pavone as well as George, saying that they would be killed if the accused killer of Wichita abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was acquitted.
On December 8, 2008, George was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President George W. Bush. On May 4, 2010, in Warsaw, he received the Honorific Medal for the Defense of Human Rights of the Republic of Poland. He is a recipient of the Canterbury Medal of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and he was one of four winners of the 2005 Bradley Awards for Civic and Intellectual Achievement. He is also a recipient of the Sidney Hook Memorial Award of the National Association of Scholars and the Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Liberal Arts of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. In 2007, he gave the annual John Dewey Lecture in Philosophy of Law at Harvard University, on the subject of natural law. He has given the annual Judge Guido Calabresi Lecture at Yale University, the Sir Malcolm Knox Lecture at the University of St. Andrews, and the Frank Irvine Lecture at Cornell University. George holds honorary doctorates of law, letters, science, civil law, humane letters, ethics, divinity, and juridical science.
George is a finger style guitarist and bluegrass banjo player. His guitar playing is in the style of Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed. His banjo playing mixes the styles of Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, and Bela Fleck. As a teenager, he performed with folk groups and bluegrass bands in coffee houses, rod and gun clubs, and at state and county fairs in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. At Swarthmore he led "Robby George and Friends," a country and bluegrass band. He performs in New Jersey with the band "Blue Heart."
- Natural Law Theory: Contemporary Essays, 1992. ISBN 0-19-823552-6
- Making Men Moral, 1995. ISBN 0-19-826024-5
- Natural Law and Moral Inquiry: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Politics in the Work of Germain Grisez, 1998. ISBN 0-87840-674-3
- In Defense of Natural Law, 1999. ISBN 0-19-826771-1
- The Autonomy of Law: Essays on Legal Positivism, 1999. ISBN 0-19-826790-8
- Natural Law and Public Reason, 2000. ISBN 0-87840-766-9
- Great Cases in Constitutional Law, 2000. ISBN 0-691-04952-1
- The Clash of Orthodoxies, 2001. ISBN 1-882926-62-5
- Natural Law, Liberalism, and Morality, 2001. ISBN 0-19-924300-X
- Constitutional Politics: Essays on Constitution Making, Maintenance, and Change, 2001 ISBN 0-691-08869-1
- The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, And Morals, 2006 ISBN 1-890626-64-3
- Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics, 2007 ISBN 978-0-521-88248-4
- Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, 2008 ISBN 0-385-52282-7
- Moral Pública: Debates Actuales, 2009 ISBN 978-956-8639-05-1
- What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, 2012 ISBN 978-1594036224
- Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism, 2013 ISBN 978-1610170703
- "Law, Democracy, and Moral Disagreement", Harvard Law Review, Vol. 110, pp. 1388–1406 (1997)
- "Public Reason and Political Conflict: Abortion and Homosexual Acts", Yale Law Journal, Vol. 106, pp. 2475–2504 (1997)
- "The Concept of Public Morality", American Journal of Jurisprudence, Vol. 45, pp. 17–31 (2000)
- "Human Cloning and Embryo Research", Journal of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 3–20 (2004)
- George, Robert P. (20 March 2009). "He Threw It All Away". First Things. Retrieved 20 July 2009.
- Kirkpatrick, David D. (20 December 2009). "The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker". The New York Times.
- Murphy, “Legal Moralism and Liberalism,” Arizona State Law Review, 1995, pp. 73–93.
- “Bringing Civic Education Back to Campus”, Scott Walter, Philanthropy (February 1, 2009)
- Toobin, Jeffrey. "THE ABSOLUTIST: Ted Cruz is an unyielding debater—and the far right’s most formidable advocate.". www.thenewyorker.com. The New Yorker. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
- Eric Quinones, “Wrestling with Great Books and Ideas”, Princeton Weekly Bulletin (April 9, 2007)
- Book TV at Princeton University, Robert George, "Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism". C-SPAN2, March 21, 2015.
- The Bradley Foundation Board of Directors
- US Senate Video
- American Principles Project
- Sullivan, Andrew. The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
- http://www.blueheartband.com[dead link]
- The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker, New York Times, Dec. 16, 2009
- "Online Resources," collected by RatzingerFanClub.com; lists links to articles, addresses and interviews, book reviews, etc.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Articles in Touchstone magazine
- Robert P. George's Robinson & McElwee profile