Founded in 2009, AEI’s Values & Capitalism initiative celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many staff, interns, and partners, we have accomplished a great deal in the past decade.
We’ve hosted over 60 major programs for students and faculty, along with 551 on-campus events. We have produced over 50 books, essays, and videos. Currently, we have over 320 faculty partners and 170 student Executive Council members in our network, as well as over 400 student alumni…
I could list off more big numbers, but what is it really that we have accomplished? When I take a minute to think deeply about it, a few things come to the forefront:
In many ways, AEI has become the go-to policy think tank for Christian college students and professors. This is important because it means that students and faculty with interests in politics, public policy, and economics, are going to AEI to pursue these interests. In general, they come away from their experience(s) with a greater appreciation for free enterprise, intellectual rigor, and the competition of ideas, and an approach to policy and politics that is principled, humble, and compassionate.
Second, and relatedly, in a confusing time and changing political and social climate, our initiative promotes faithful, yet pragmatic Christian engagement in a pluralistic public square. To put it another way, we are giving a broad network of Christians a space and framework to engage in political discourse and public life in a way that is principled without being overly ideological or partisan. We do this primarily in our engagement with young people, but the initiative also seeks to do this with faculty and professionals.
Third, more and more talented Christian college students are pursuing jobs and careers in DC as a result of our programs. Of course, not all students can or should move to DC to work, but it is a place where Christians can use their influence to do significant good through government, non-profits, businesses, and more. We need faithful people in this city. And many of these students did not have the awareness or ability to pursue a career in DC before our programs existed. Furthermore, when these students move to DC, they immediately have Christian community as a result of the friendships that they formed in our programs. These relationships are critically important in keeping them grounded and supported as they begin their professional lives.
Finally, we have built a tight-knit community of over 100 Christian college professors who challenge, encourage, and support each other in their careers and vocations. Of course, these faculty members are also resourced by our programs and are important partners in our efforts to reach students, but the authentic relationships that have been formed are what make our efforts truly rewarding.
Ultimately, our program exists to initiate long-term cultural change that strengthens our country and promotes the flourishing of individuals and communities. We believe that our investments in educators and future leaders are slowly, but surely, making such change a reality.
So, there is much to celebrate at this milestone in the program’s history. But it is also a fitting time to start a new chapter…
After ten great years under the banner of Values & Capitalism, we are pleased to announce that our program will now be known as AEI’s Initiative on Faith & Public Life.
Why make the change? Because we feel the new name more accurately embodies the core purpose of our initiative: to equip Christians for thoughtful engagement in public life. It is also more reflective of how we aim to accomplish that mission: through open-minded, nonpartisan dialogue in the pursuit of truth.
To be clear, our program will continue to champion the core tenets of a free and virtuous society (yes, we remain proponents of both values & capitalism), but we have always done so—and will continue to do so—with intellectual humility, authenticity, and seriousness. We think this new name better expresses that ethos, and will allow our program to have a broader reach in the years ahead.
And what will the coming decade bring for the program?
There is renewed debate today about how Christians ought to be engaged in the public square, if at all. We want the Initiative on Faith & Public Life to be right in the middle of that conversation. We think it is imperative, not optional, for Christians to be engaged in public life. From Jeremiah 29 to the two Great Commandments to the Great Commission, we are called to be deeply concerned about the world and the people around us.
Working in politics and policy isn’t the only way to fulfill this calling, of course. It could also mean running a business in a way that seeks the good of others, financing the development of a product that will improve lives, or investing your time or resources toward the good of your local community.
This calling also drives us to do this work wisely, with a knowledge of how the world works (i.e. economics) and which conditions and institutions are most conducive to personal and societal flourishing.
And finally, for each of us personally, it means that we must be sensitive to the gifts, talents, and interests that we have been given and how they can be used for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors.
This, in the end, is what our initiative is primarily in the business of doing: helping Christians along in their pursuit of faithful and effective public life.
We look forward to all that is to come in our program’s second decade and are grateful for your partnership.
To learn more about the initiative, we encourage you to explore our website. To get involved, please feel free to contact our team at [email protected].
Note: This announcement was adapted from remarks given at a gathering on September 20, 2019 to celebrate Values & Capitalism’s tenth anniversary. You can watch video of the event—which includes a discussion about Christian engagement in contemporary politics with Cherie Harder (Trinity Forum), Stephanie Summers (Center for Public Justice) and Michael Wear (AND Campaign)—at this link.