JMU — Spring/Summer 2013
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“A return to Madison”
Jim Heffernan

JMU President Jonathan R. Alger capped a weeklong inauguration celebration by delivering the keynote speech at Montpelier for President James Madison’s 262nd birthday on March 16.

Alger called for a return to the Madisonian ideal of a civil society and pledged to strengthen JMU’s relationship with Montpelier to help bring more attention to James Madison and his legacy. “Perhaps more so than any other president or founder, James Madison is responsible for the creation and miraculous endurance of our republic,” Alger said.

Madison’s great innovation was to devise a system of government that allows for differing opinions and competing interests, Alger said.While Americans today profess respect for the Constitution, too often public discourse on important social challenges degenerates into shouting matches, name-calling and a cry for the elimination of opposing political, social and economic views, Alger said. “We need a return to Madison. If James Madison were here today, I believe he would remind us of his level-headed assessment of our human limitations when we encounter and react to views that differ from our own,” Alger said.

JMU can best honor James Madison’s legacy by fostering and modeling civil and respectful discourse on the great issues of our time, Alger added. “If we enlighten ourselves through education and believe that we all are connected — even with those whom we might passionately disagree — we honor Madison. I intend for this idea to be a hallmark of my administration.”

Alger also announced that JMU and Montpelier will partner on several upcoming projects, like a collaborative course on James Madison offered by the JMU history department and Adult Degree Program working with Montpelier’s Center for the Constitution. (Read more on Page 18).

Alger urged those in attendance to go from the ceremony “with a renewed sense of our roles as citizens and the power we have to live the ideals James Madison handed down to us through the ages.”

‘We need a return to Madison. If James Madison were here today, I believe he would remind us of his level-headed assessment of our human limitations when we encounter and react to views that differ from our own.’

— Jonathan R. Alger, President
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