5th Annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World: RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY: ALLIES OR ANTAGONISTS?

November 27, 2008
06:00 pm - 07:30 pm

Jean Bethke Elshtain
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago

  • Welcome from Roy Norton, Canadian Embassy Minister of Public Affairs ::VIDEO
  • Opening remarks from Carl Gershman, President, NED ::VIDEO
  • Lecture, Jean Bethke Elshtain :: VIDEO
  • Question & Answer session ::VIDEO

Jean Bethke Elshtain is a political philosopher whose task has been to show the connections between our political and ethical convictions. One of America’s leading public intellectuals, her work over the past thirty-five years has contributed to national debates on the family, the roles of men and women, the state of American democracy, and America’s role in international affairs.

Born in 1941 in the irrigated farm country of northern Colorado, Elshtain grew up in the small village of Timnath, Colorado (population 185), where she attended public schools. A graduate of Colorado State University (A.B., 1963), she went on to earn a Master’s degree in history as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow before turning to the study of politics. She received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University in Politics in 1973, and joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she taught from 1973 to 1988.

She joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in 1988 as the first woman to hold an endowed professorship in the history of that institution. She was appointed to her current position as the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1995. She has been a visiting professor at Oberlin College, Yale University, and Harvard University. The recipient of nine honorary degrees, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996. In 2002, Elshtain received the Frank J. Goodnow award, the highest award for distinguished service to the profession given by the American Political Science Association.

A prolific author, Professor Elshtain has published more than five hundred essays in scholarly and popular journals and is a contributing editor for The New Republic. She has authored, co-authored, or edited twenty books including:

  • Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social Thought (1981)
  • Meditations on Modern Political Thought (1986)
  • Women and War (1987)
  • Democracy on Trial (a New York Times “Notable Book” for 1995)
  • Augustine and the Limits of Politics (1996)
  • Real Politics: Political Theory and Everyday Life (1997)
  • New Wine in Old Bottles: International Politics and Ethical Discourse (1998)
  • Who Are We? Critical Reflections, Hopeful Possibilities (2000), for which she received the Theologos Award for Best Academic Book 2000 from the Association of Theological Booksellers.
  • Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (2002)
  • Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (2003), named one of the best non-fiction books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly.

Among her numerous academic and civic affiliations, Dr. Elshtain currently serves as co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is Chair of the Council on Families in America, and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy. In addition, she is newly the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom at Georgetown University. She has served on the Boards of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the National Humanities Center, has twice received an appointment to the President’s Council on Bioethics, and is a member of the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In 2006, Dr. Elshtain delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, joining such previous Gifford Lecturers as William James, Hannah Arendt, Karl Barth, and Reinhold Niebuhr. Elshtain’s lectures were published in June 2008 in her latest book, Sovereignty: God, State, and Self.

Jean Bethke Elshtain is married and the mother of four children and the grandmother of three.


The National Endowment for Democracy would like to thank the following donors for their generous support of this event:

  • The Albert Shanker Institute
  • The American Federation of Teachers