- Institute for Freedom and Community
- For Students
The public affairs conversation
The Public Affairs Conversation, which is fully supported by the Institute for Freedom and Community, is modeled on the other signature Conversation programs at St. Olaf. Students undertake an interdisciplinary journey through influential texts and ideas that have shaped civil discourse in the past and will guide its future.
This yearlong program for sophomores, juniors and seniors consists of two courses (fall and spring) and a funded internship opportunity (during interim, spring or summer). The courses focus on contested ideals and contemporary controversies in American public affairs. The first course looks at the evolution of contested ideals in American politics as they develop in the founding period and throughout the history of the republic. The course also engages a range of contemporary normative perspectives that are the foundation of the contemporary debate. The second course blends normative and empirical analysis of contemporary public policy. Both courses will be supplemented by co-curricular activities and events.
For more information contact: Michael Fuerstein, Director
The Institute for Freedom and Community seeks to provide funding and other administrative support to student organizations whose activities promote the values of free inquiry and spirited expression, so that people with diverse points of view and values can study, discuss, and debate political and social issues in respectful environments.
The Institute has periodically sponsored an essay contest open to current students that addresses a central question or theme related to recent Institute programming. Prizes have included an all-expense paid trip to Chicago to take in the hit Broadway show Hamilton: An American Musical, and multi-day excursion throughout Washington D.C., including a private tour of the National Archives’ Rare Book Room and reserved seating for a round of oral arguments at the Supreme Court. Check back for any future contest announcements.
What is Braver Angels?
Braver Angels is a national program launched in 2016, working to restore civil trust in America. It was originally named Better Angels in reference to Abraham Lincoln’s use of the phrase in his First Inaugural Address in 1861 on the eve of the Civil War. The phrase “better angels” represents the belief that we can discover areas of commonality in addition to differences — even in moments of fierce conflict. The mission of the organization is to reduce political polarization in the United States by bringing liberals and conservatives together not to compromise but to understand each other beyond stereotypes.
A Braver Angels Debate is a highly structured conversation in which a group of people think together, listen carefully to one another, and allow themselves to be touched and perhaps changed by each other’s ideas.
What are Braver Angels’ connections to the IFC?
Braver Angels first worked with St. Olaf College through the Institute for Freedom and Community in 2019, and also hosted a virtual debate in 2020.
The debate in 2019 was a “Red/Blue Workshop” where students discussed their political leanings and biases, and the debate in 2020 focused on the resolution, “Cancel culture is antithetical to the principles and liberties that are at the foundation of this country.”
Watch the 2020 virtual debate on “cancel culture” below!