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From Citizenship to Leadership:
The Role of Elite graduates
in Democracy

Foster UM Event 3.HEIC
The discussion of "types" of college graduates helped me reflect on my own attitudes toward career and work. I have to admit
I need to make more time to do this!

UM undergraduate student
I continue to be fascinated by the connections between Aristotle
and modern life. Dr Foster's emphasis on"virtues" as what
really matters for the individual and for society was
presented clearly and was appreciated.

UM graduate student
Professor Foster's presentation was dense and brief enough
to "tee up" a really helpful Q and A time afterward.
And the food was great too!

UM undergraduate student
Luke Foster 2.jpeg

Luke Foster, PhD

Dr. Foster received his PhD from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, where he wrote a political theory dissertation on elite education in democracy entitled 'Excellence for the Democratic Age: Liberal Education and the Mixed Regime."


Born in Malawi and raised in Mozambique, he came to the United States to complete a BA in English and History magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa at Columbia University. Previously a Visiting Research Fellow at Sciences Po Paris, he is currently holds a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government at the University of Notre Dame.


He has published articles on the Great Books as an aristocratic element in democratic life, on the civic role of the research university, and on the duties of intellectuals to their nations." 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Welker Room

the michigan union

4:30 to 6:30 PM

"How should University of Michigan students — "leaders and best"— think about their own role in public life as recipients of a highly privileged education?


Dr Foster will first sketch two of the prevailing definitions of the role of elite students in society -- the technocrat and the activist -- before examining what makes those conceptions unsatisfactory.


A person's character makes the difference between privilege rightly used or privilege abused. Two virtues in particular are indispensable for leaders: wisdom and magnanimity.

This lecture will help us to search for an ideal of education that seeks to combine professional excellence and good character at the service of society.

background reading

Michael Sandel. The problem with meritocracy. Lapham's Quarterly Podcast, January 29, 2021
Wendell Berry. Leadership from the bottom. The New Atlantis, Summer 2008

William Deresiewicz. Solitude and leadership. The American Scholar, March 10, 2010

Benjamin Wallace-Wells. A political philosopher is hopeful about the Democrats, The New Yorker, December 17, 2021

Wilfred M. McClay. A distant elite: How meritocracy went wrong. Hedgehog Review, Summer 2016

Patrick Deneen. Christopher Lasch and the limits of hope. First Things, December 2004

WH Auden. The Unknown Citizen. A Poem

Dylan Pahman. Between idealism and self-interest: the vital role of incompetence in modern democracy. Mercatornet. June 8, 2017

BBC Radio, An introduction to the cardinal virtues, CS Lewis, A video.
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