I want to give you a quick snapshot of the goings-on of this conference, held at Union University in Jackson, TN from February 25-27, 2009. I don’t merely want to report what’s been said, but to give you a bit of a feel for this event. That, it seems to me, is a huge part of conferences–what they look like, sound like, who’s there, what’s going on behind the scenes.
Conference attendees: Pretty strong attendance for such a high-level conference on political philosophy. There are lots of Union students here, which impresses me. Francis Beckwith from Baylor is also here, notably, and seems to know everyone. Robby George is up and around, interacting with folks, talking to students, generally being kind and engaging. In total disclosure, I’m impressed by the way he carries himself; he does not seem to think of himself as a big-shot, which is all too common among people of his stature. Some Catholic nuns are here, dressed in full habit, of course. This is an interesting and fun crowd.
Conference facilities: The Carl Grant Events Center is an exceptional facility. I’m highly impressed. The events staff is pulling things off well, which is one of the most important aspects of the whole deal. If the mics aren’t working, the food isn’t hot, and the people are uncomfortable, ain’t nobody happy. As one who plans conferences and events, I can personally testify that this is a nicely-executed shindig in a state-of-the art edifice. Check out the Grant Center website for more information.Conference blogging: Other than yours truly, Dr. Hunter Baker of Houston Baptist University is blogging the conference for The American Spectator, the Acton Institute, and other sites. He’s not live-blogging, but he’ll be posting on these sites in time to come. Hunter is a deep cat–PhD from Baylor in Religion and Politics and the right-hand man of Robert Sloan at HBU. The more I find out about this school and its personnel, the more impressed I become.
Conference organizer: Dr. Micah Watson (PhD, Princeton, under George) has pulled this event off with excellence and a gracious spirit. The schedule is well-organized, the speakers are well-cared for, and things are humming right along. This is not a conference for intellectual wimps; the level of discourse is quite high, and even imposing at times. Union has a gem in Watson, whose Center for Politics and Religion is hosting the conference thanks to a generous grant from the Bradley Foundation and additional help from the Witherspoon Institute.
All in all, three speakers in, I’m thoroughly enjoying this conference and the school that’s hosting it.