Tom Gerety – "Constitution Day Address"

Collegiate Professor of law and humanities, New York University School of


American Wars: Citizenship and Warmaking Responsibility in the Age of the Professional Army

Tom Gerety PosterWednesday, September 17, 2008
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium – 7:00 p.m.

Topical Background
Politicians often stress the importance of “doing one’s civic duty” in a democracy. Historically, one of a citizen’s most important responsibilities in a democracy is to defend one’s own rights and the rights of others.

The professional American military created in the aftermath of the Vietnam War undercut the obligation of America’s youth to contribute to the nation’s defense. As of June 30, 2008, about 1,427,546 people serve full-time in the U.S. Armed Forces, an all-volunteer, professional standing military.

Youth disengagement is viewed as a growing problem in American society. The majority of young Americans do not vote, and far fewer join the armed forces. Does this detachment from civic life pose a problem for American society? How important is a common civic identity in our diverse society? Who holds the responsibility for warmaking if the current generation of American youth is uninterested in exercising their civic rights?

About the Speaker
Dr. Tom Gerety joined the faculty of the NYU School of Law in 2005, after coming to NYU two years earlier to head the Brennan Center for Justice. Prior to that, he served as the President of Amherst College (1994-2003) and of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (1989-1994). He was also the Dean and Nippert Professor at the College of Law at the University of Cincinnati and has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Indiana University, Stanford University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Dr. Gerety earned his B.A., Ph.D., and J.D. at Yale University (1969, 1976, 1976).

As a law professor, he has taught and wrote about constitutional law and political philosophy, with a special emphasis on First Amendment freedoms, including speech, privacy, and religious freedom. With Judy Woodruff, he wrote and narrated a PBS series, Visions of the Constitution, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.