Federal Courts and Nominations

AEI hosts sixth annual Executive Council Fall Leadership Conference for undergraduate students

Earlier this fall, AEI’s Academic Programs department hosted its sixth annual Executive Council Fall Leadership Conference at our headquarters in Washington. The conference brought 91 students from 57 colleges and universities across the country to hear from AEI scholars, DC professionals, and other distinguished speakers. The goals of this annual conference are to expose students to the breadth and depth of AEI’s research, offer them professional and leadership advice, prepare participants for their leadership roles back on campus, and help them grapple with some of the most challenging debates in public policy today.

The event was attended by undergraduate leaders in AEI’s Executive Council Program, who partner with AEI to introduce the institute’s scholarship to their peers and faculty and foster conversations about public policy on campus. Now active on 109 campuses, Executive Councils organize reading groups, lectures, and debates throughout the academic year — all with the purpose of making campus political discourse more balanced, robust, and civil.

The conference opened with a lively conversation with National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty and AEI’s Jonah Goldberg, centered on themes related to Goldberg’s recent bestseller “Suicide of the West.” Dougherty argued the rising force of nationalism and populism in the West, although not without their risks, are an important democratic corrective to major elite failures and overreach since the end of the Cold War. For Goldberg, these emerging movements often risk simplifying difficult political issues and undermining the classical liberalism and pluralism of free societies. While populism and nationalism may express an enduring human need for community and solidarity, for Goldberg, these desires can only be answered through thick institutions of civil society, rather than the larger forces of the nation or state.

The conference continued on Saturday morning with a panel on the Supreme Court with the Heritage Foundation’s Elizabeth Slattery and the Constitutional Accountability Center’s Brianne Gorod. Slattery and Gorod discussed the ultimate legacy of retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, competing understandings of originalism and constitutional jurisprudence, and the unfolding of now Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

Their discussion was followed by an Executive Council training on event planning, campus outreach, and team management. Nile Nwogu (University of Pennsylvania, ‘19), Derek Uejo (Biola University, ‘19), and Matthew Bult (Ohio State University, ‘19) offered their advice to peers based on their successes and frustrations at their respective schools. After breaking for lunch, students heard from two emerging millennial leaders in Washington: Charles Morrison, National Security Adviser in the Office of Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Christopher Jolly Hale, current Fox News and Time contributor and recent Democratic congressional candidate in Tennessee. Both offered salient advice based on their own experiences about succeeding professionally while staying personally grounded in the culture of Washington, DC.

AEI’s Neena Shenai and Brooking’s Joshua Meltzer followed by introducing students to their think-tanks’ new joint working group on globalization. While both Shenai and Meltzer unambiguously defended free trade as vital to global prosperity and the liberal international order, they also considered how advocates for globalization must reframe and adapt their agenda in the face of calls for protectionism and economic nationalism in Europe and the United States. Next, AEI’s Kenneth Pollack delivered a captivating lecture on the contemporary Middle East and why the United States must remain active and engaged in the region.

The conference closed with a dinner and discussion with AEI’s Ramesh Ponnuru and Third Way’s Lanae Erickson. They offered insights into how their respective political parties can resist political tribalism, advance more compelling policy visions, and attract new voters and communities to build lasting electoral majorities. Ponnuru emphasized the need for more creative Republican domestic policy thinking to address the concerns of America’s working and lower-middle classes. Erickson encouraged Democrats to reengage with white working class and rural voters, and to frame their economic agenda around opportunity rather than wealth inequality. In their shared case for respectful dialogue and measured thinking, Ponnuru and Erickson captured the ultimate goals of the Fall Leadership Conference and AEI’s work with undergraduates.

More from Federal Courts and Nominations

Federal Courts and Nominations
January 17, 2024

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Sign-On Letter Prioritizing Diverse Judges

Dear Senator, On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the...
Federal Courts and Nominations
July 31, 2023

Liberal justices earn praise for ‘independence’ on Supreme Court, but Thomas truly stands alone, expert says

Fox News
Some democrats compare Justice Clarence Thomas to ‘Uncle Tom’ and house slave in ‘Django Unchained’
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra, By Brianna Herlihy
Federal Courts and Nominations
July 7, 2023

In Her First Term, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson ‘Came to Play’

The New York Times
From her first week on the Supreme Court bench in October to the final day...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra, by Adam Liptak
Federal Courts and Nominations
July 8, 2023

The Supreme Court’s continuing march to the right

Major legal rulings that dismantled the use of race in college admissions, undermined protections for...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra, by Tierney Sneed
Federal Courts and Nominations
June 25, 2023

Federal judge defends Clarence Thomas in new book, rejects ‘pot shots’ at Supreme Court

A federal appeals court judge previously on short lists for the Supreme Court is taking the rare...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra
Federal Courts and Nominations
May 1, 2023

Supreme Court, done with arguments, turns to decisions

Roll Call
The justices have released opinions at a slow rate this term, and many of the...
By: Brianne J. Gorod, By Michael Macagnone