<< Deepening Our Understanding of Citizenship


Sunday, September 1st, 1996

In mid-September 2011,  AEI’s Program on American Citizenship celebrated Constitution Day (September 17), the day thirty-nine members of the Constitutional Convention signed the draft constitution. In conjunction with that remembrance, we thought it appropriate to honor our longtime colleague and friend Walter Berns with a panel dedicated to discussing his scholarship on the Constitution and the American regime it supports.

At the event, AEI president Arthur Brooks announced that henceforth the Citizenship Program’s annual Constitution Day celebration will be named in honor of Walter Berns in appreciation of his scholarly legacy in this field and his many years of contributing to the work of the American Enterprise Institute as a resident scholar.


A scholar of political philosophy and constitutional law, Walter Berns has written extensively on American government and politics in both professional and popular journals. He is the John M. Olin University Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University and served as a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has also taught at Louisiana State University, Yale University, Cornell University, Colgate University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Chicago. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in political science at the University of Chicago and has published many works on American government and society. His articles have also appeared in the Atlantic MonthlyCommentary, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Berns served on the National Council on the Humanities from 1982 to 1988 and the Council of Scholars in the Library of Congress from 1981 to 1985. He was also a delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2005.


From the Bench: The Constitutional Statesmanship of Chief Justice William Rehnquist,September 2017. Remarks given by Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, for the 2017 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture.

Terrorism and the Bill of Rights,” September 2016. Remarks given by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, for the 2016 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture.”

“The Magna Carta, Due Process, and Administrative Power,” September 2015. Remarks given by Philip Hamburger, Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, for the 2015 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture.

“The Constitution as Political Theory: Between Rationalism and Reverence,” September 2014. Remarks given by James W. Ceaser, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, for the 2014 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture.

“Spending, Public Debt, and Constitutional Design: 2012 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture,” September, 2012. Read remarks given by Michael W. McConnell, Richard & Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, for the 2012 Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture.

Walter Berns and the Constitution: A Celebration,” January, 2012. Read the formal presentations given by Jeremy A. Rabkin (professor, George Mason University School of Law), Leon R. Kass (Madden-Jewett Chair, AEI), and Christopher DeMuth (former president, AEI, and distinguished fellow, Hudson Institute) as they discussed Walter’s contributions to the study of the Constitution. Following these presentations is a brief set of remarks made by Professor Berns at the conclusion of the event.

Leon R. Kass, “Teacher and Patriot,” September 27, 2011. It is absolutely fitting and proper to honor Walter Berns in connection with Constitution Day. The U.S. Constitution, and the underlying ideas and ideals of “constitutionalism,” have been the central focus of Walter’s intellectual life.

Walter Berns and the Constitution: A Celebration of the Constitution, with Opening Remarks by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, September 20, 2011. For more than fifty years, Walter Berns has analyzed the American constitutional order with insight and profundity.  It is only fitting that as we mark Constitution Day—September 17, the day thirty-nine members of the Constitutional Convention signed the draft constitution—we examine his work on the meaning of the Constitution and the American regime it supports.  At this event, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave opening remarks in celebration of the Constitution, and Leon R. Kass (Madden-Jewett Chair, AEI), Jeremy A. Rabkin (Professor, George Mason University School of Law), and Christopher Demuth (D.C. Searle Senior Fellow, AEI) discussed Walter Berns’s lasting contribution to constitutional studies.

Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg, “Polls on Patriotism and Military Service, 2010,” AEI Outlook, June 30, 2010. This study, a compilation of public opinion data on patriotism, examines what it means to be a patriot and what people think about military service and the draft. A special section looks at young people’s attitudes on these topics. The study includes all of the latest polling data as well as important historical trends for comparative purposes.

Walter Berns, “Lincoln at Two Hundred,” Bradley Lecture, February 9, 2009. Abraham Lincoln was the greatest of our presidents. He saved the Union, which made it possible for him to free the slaves. But he did more than this; without him we probably would have had no reason to celebrate the bicentennial first of the Declaration of Independence and then of the Constitution. It is therefore altogether fitting, Walter Berns said in the fifth in the 2008-2009 Bradley Lecture Series on February 9, that we mark the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.

Walter Berns, “From the Ashes Comes the Rebirth of Patriotism,” AEI Outlook, October 1, 2001. The terrorist attacks of September 11 have inspired a greater outpouring of patriotism by the American people than have many previous wars, and numerous displays of the American flag symbolize that patriotism. The flag represents more than free speech; it reminds us of those who fought before us to preserve our freedom.

Walter Berns, “On Patriotism,” Bradley Lecture, September 16, 1996. No one is born loving his country; such love is not natural, but has to be taught, or inculcated, or somehow acquired. A person may not even be born loving himself, but he soon enough learns to do so, and, unless something is done about it, he will continue to do so, and in a manner that makes a concern for country and fellow countrymen—or anyone other than himself—difficult if not impossible. The problem is as old as politics, and we Americans are not exempt from having to deal with it.