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de Tocqueville and American Democracy...Today and the Future

Alexis de Tocqueville, a 25-year-old French nobleman who journeyed to the United States in 1831, wanted to observe firsthand the successful political experiment that was evolving here and take his findings home to France, which was itself trying to shape its own young democracy. de Tocqueville's unique observations resulted in the two volumes of Democracy in America. Published in two parts, one in 1835 and the second in 1840, it reveals, in its 700 pages, insights about democracy and the American character that have led both liberals and conservatives to claim Tocqueville as their own.

The Coudert Institute is delighted to welcome Dr. William R. Cook to our 2021 Season as he presents a two day workshop, de Tocqueville and American Democracy... Today and the Future. "We have lots of things to talk about on February 17 and 18 at the Coudert Institute," says Professor Cook. Registration is now open, and tickets may be purchased HERE. We are grateful for his sharing of the following content:

Alex de Tocquevile's Democracy in America has been called the best book ever written about democracy and the best book ever written about America. It is a formidable book, almost 700 pages long, written after Tocqueville's journey to America in 1831. Republicans and Democrats praise this book. Clinton and Gingrich agreed about the greatness of Democracy in America. What better time to read and discuss this book than in 2021, for we can all agree that our democracy has been challenged by both natural and human-made phenomena.

Tocqueville gets to the heart of democracy in his phrase "equality of conditions." He examines strengths and weaknesses. He explains how democracy is not simply a form of government but rather a way of living. He believed that what he called "habits of the heart" are ultimately more important than the Constitution to the success of democracy. He believed that democracy could not be successful without a strong civil society and a vigorous free press. He did not fear that democracy could lead to totalitarian government but that it could move toward a sort of "tyranny light."

Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses in ancient and medieval history, the Renaissance and Reformation periods, and the Bible and Christian thought. Since 1983 Professor Cook has directed 11 Seminars for School Teachers for the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of St. Francis of Assisi and Francis of Assisi: The Way of Poverty and Humility.

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