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Ilan Wurman spoke on the Con­sti­tution | LinkedIn

From pres­i­dential debates to main­stream media talk shows, argu­ments over the Constitution’s status as living or dead are fre­quent. The Fed­er­alist Society hosted an event last Thursday to help answer ques­tions on the topic.

Ilan Wurman, vis­iting assistant pro­fessor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State Uni­versity,  gave a lecture titled “Can a Dead Con­sti­tution Bind the Living?” in Lane Hall. 

Wurman teaches admin­is­trative law and con­sti­tu­tional law. His writings have appeared in several journals, and he is the author of “A Debt Against the Living: An Intro­duction to Orig­i­nalism” and “The Second Founding: An Intro­duction to the Four­teenth Amendment.”

Wurman’s talk focused on a short intro­duction to and defense of orig­i­nalism.

“It’s both a con­ceptual defense about how texts should be inter­preted, but also a nor­mative defense of why we should be bound by this par­ticular text that we have for a Con­sti­tution,” Wurman said.

Wurman clearly laid out the argument for why Amer­icans should be bound to the Con­sti­tution even if the general public believes it is flawed. He argued that a con­sti­tution for a free society has to suc­cess­fully balance self-gov­ernment and liberty. 

“These are the two objec­tives of a free society,” Wurman said. “And if the Con­sti­tution suc­cess­fully does that, then I think that is what makes such a con­sti­tution for such a free society a binding con­sti­tution even if it is imperfect.”  

Pres­ident of the Fed­er­alist Society junior Daniel Grif­ferty said that he thought the night was a success. 

“Wurman is a very engaging speaker and good at getting down to earth and doing Q&A ses­sions where he answers a lot of the harder ques­tions,” Grif­ferty said.  

Wurman finds great ful­fillment in giving talks to college under­grads.  

“It means a lot to me per­sonally because I am trying to do whatever is in my power to advance the cause of liberty, free insti­tu­tions, and con­sti­tu­tional gov­ernment,” Wurman said. “And speaking to young people — the next gen­er­ation — about how we should care about the Con­sti­tution and the Founders is the best thing I can be doing to help advance that mission and cause.”

The talk was met with great feedback from stu­dents.

“I chose to come to this talk because I have been a part of the Fed­er­alist Society for the past two years and it is always very edi­fying to come hear the speakers invited,” sophomore Mary Gregg said. “I always walk away with new infor­mation about the field I want to pursue.” 

Car­oline Welton felt she walked out of the talk with a better idea of orig­i­nalism as an inter­pre­tation of the Con­sti­tution. 

“It was a very clear defense of orig­i­nalism based on an under­standing of gov­ernment, liberty, and self-gov­ernment,” Welton said. “This is some­thing that here at Hillsdale I think we value a lot so it is important to learn about.”

Wurman found the stu­dents of Hillsdale a receptive and coop­er­ative audience. 

“I usually do this talk to law schools and only rarely to under­grads,” Wurman said. “But I find it much more rewarding to speak to under­grads. Their minds are less fixed on things. They are more amiable to hearing new and inter­esting argu­ments. It was an absolute delight to come and speak to the very smart under­grads here at Hillsdale.”