During this time of prodigious complexity and uncertainty abroad, at home, and within the self, we—the staff and contributing writers of A Contest of Ideas (ACI)—seek to return to the basics. We acknowledge that, as the problems we face become ever more vexing and numerous, it becomes increasingly easy to surrender to confusion and frustration, to give in to the powerfully demoralizing and often overwhelming sense that we are simply too small to impact a world so large and full of suffering. To overcome these weaknesses, we at this journal believe that we must go back to the roots that founded this nation, back to the roots of every plan ever formed that ever made a difference: a free, honest, and cogent exchange of ideas. Critical discussion between people of similar and opposing ideologies has enabled human progress in the past; such a contest of ideas (as Obama called it in his 2016 DNC speech) that is neither partisan nor self-serving, but is rather part of the much greater narrative of we, is what shall work again in the future to resolve the seemingly intractable issues that we face. That is what we at this journal come here to do. To think, to cultivate these thoughts, and to challenge one another. This is the only proper way to prepare to solve the issues that we face.
To preserve the nonpartisan spirit of this journal, ACI will skew neither liberal nor conservative. Instead, it will bring together writers and articles that force these two increasingly disparate ideologies to interact with and grow from one another, for ultimately we hope to transcend the visceral binary that has come to dominate and polarize American politics of late. Furthermore, this journal will not be affiliated with any one religion. Rather, we, the staff of this journal, welcome people of all faith and ideological backgrounds to write for us, provided that their arguments are strong and logical, and are expressed by clear, coherent prose. These are the criteria on which student submissions will be judged. It is important to note that, while this is a journal of opinion, ACI will not tolerate crude or hateful rhetoric. It is our mission to facilitate level-headed, intelligent discussion about the problems that lie before us. Thus, we will also neither accept nor reward arrogance from the members of our staff and our contributing writers, for there is no greater obstacle to constructive debate than uncompromising assuredness of self.
To make real the larger ideal here of well-balanced discourse, ACI focuses on three broadly defined, yet intimately related thematic concentrations. The first concentration is “Politics and the Economy: Foreign and Domestic.” This section of the journal forces students to look outward at national and international events and issues. It compels students to learn about these issues, to consider solutions to these important problems, and to express forcibly yet concisely their ideas and responses. The second thematic concentration—“Religion and Philosophy”—encourages us next to look inward. It prompts us to examine the principles and religious beliefs that shape how we construct meaning, how we approach, or contributing writers think we should approach, the important challenges facing our world. This section additionally seeks to enhance our understanding of foreign ideologies and cultures, both so that we can address our preconceived notions and subconscious prejudices, but also so that we can better situate the issues that concern unfamiliar milieu. The third and final concentration of this publication is “Social Justice.” Though we strive to maintain an open mind as we learn more about our own society and foreign societies, it is through this lens of social justice—of acute concern for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the forgotten, for the greater good of this world—that we frame our look outward and our gaze inward. This sense of greater duty to others, to the world, must mold the way we think and how we act. It will shape the articles published in this journal.
We, the students of the College, have been blessed with many gifts in our lives. This journal presents us with a chance to hone these gifts. We have been given the gift of education. Let us here develop our knowledge through research, contention, and persuasive argument. We have been given the gift of good health. Let us relentlessly work. We have been given the gift of time: four years at this College. Let us spend it lucidly thinking. Let us spend it reading. Let us spend it writing and speaking out. If we truly seek to reduce inequality, to serve the poor and the marginalized, to better the nation, the economy, the environment, or the future of our world in some other way—if we hope to have any impact on this world—this is how we must act. All of us must sharpen our faculties. Only after such concentrated, purposeful refinement can we hope to contribute to the indispensable causes of our world that others have thus far so nobly advanced. We cannot waste our time.
Maybe this seems blindly grandiose. Maybe this seems all too idealistic. But to this end—the edification of the self so that we may more constructively contribute to public discourse and the betterment of our world—we, the staff of A Contest of Ideas, pledge our unwavering devotion.