By Andrew Hoff | Echo
Holly Kuzmich, who serves as executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, visited campus on Monday, April 23.
She was kept busy, speaking in chapel, then delivering lectures on the work of the Bush Institute as a guest speaker in classrooms, over lunch, dinner and finally in the evening as a continuation of the Halbrook Freedom Lecture series.
Among other topics, Kuzmich addressed declining faith in democratic institutions, organized religion and higher education. She commented that whereas this decline is not without good reason, it could corrode important aspects of our society.
"It weakens the ties that bind us together as Americans," Kuzmich said. "It undermines the most important means we have to combat the social breakdown occurring in society. Through institutions we create communities that allow us to thrive. Strong institutions produce strong, engaged citizens."
This trend is the subject of ongoing public opinion research happening at the Bush Institute, which will be released later this year. She did reveal a theme of their findings thus far has been concern about the ability of democratic systems to deliver actual benefits to citizens.
Kuzmich also addressed the topic of civility. She recalled from her time in Washington, D.C. how simply returning phone calls and giving people the opportunity to talk taught her about civility.
She recalled how working for President George W. Bush taught her the importance of being driven by strong personal values. Not only is it easier to work with people who have clear principles, but backing stances with personal values is highly-respected, and a faithful way to work on public policy issues.
"Know what your principles are," Kuzmich said. "Let them lead and drive your work."
She mentioned one of her passions for being on campus Monday was to encourage those considering public service as a professional goal. For Kuzmich, public service has been a satisfying way to take real action on problems.
In this political climate, it can be easy to become bitter. Kuzmich wants to encourage this generation to not lose its drive, since she sees millennials as highly-motivated to solve issues.
"Find good people to work for, and there are plenty of them out there," Kuzmich said. "It makes your work life really satisfying."
Kuzmich's visit to campus highlighted the work of the Bush Institute in several realms, and raised several interesting issues facing American democracy today.
Some Taylor faculty members commented on the opportunity to see Kuzmich speak.
"Holly's Chapel Address and her evening lecture highlighted the importance of women and men of principled faith becoming actively engaged in pursuit of a common good," said Tom Jones, professor of history and chair of the department of history, global and political studies. "She is an excellent example of how one person can make a difference through a career in politics and public service."
Jones went on to say Kuzmich's lectures were not intended merely for those planning to enter the policy realm. Instead, they were a call for all of us to live faithfully, in ways reflective of the values found in America's founding documents.
Academic dean of the school of humanities, arts and biblical studies Michael Hammond called it a privilege to have Kuzmich on campus Monday for those long 14 hours.
"Her nonprofit work for the George W. Bush Institute has built partnerships around the world, across the ideological spectrum," Hammond said. "The Halbrook Freedom Lecture contributes to our campus community through leaders who exemplify solid principles and civil discourse in public service."
The Halbrook Freedom Lecture series began in 2015, and has brought to campus Robert George from Princeton University, Daniel Dreisbach of American University, Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation, former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar and former Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton.
According to Hammond, next year's lecture has not yet been planned.