Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin encouraged students and others who want to make a difference in their communities to get involved at the state government level, saying more is being accomplished there than in the federal government. .
Youngkin spoke Friday at the 41st Annual National Student Symposium, sponsored by the University of Virginia Law School Chapter of the Federalist Society. The theme of the symposium was “Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists: Revisiting the Founding Debates” and focused on the arguments surrounding the ratification of the US Constitution to help shed light on the original meaning of the document.
Youngkin, the 74th governor of Virginia, now in the first year of his four-year term, was the keynote speaker.
Noting that he was addressing the Federalist Society — an organization of lawyers, law students, and scholars who support the principles of limited government they point to as embodied in the U.S. Constitution — Youngkin focused his comments on federalism, individual rights and the rule of law.
He said he understood how alarmed and discouraged people would be in the face of extremism and dysfunction in Washington.
Youngkin said James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, “gave us checks and balances, but today in our nation’s capital it often seems as if the rulers have checked and the balances of the bank of ideas have fallen to zero”.
“Most of the time up there is spent in gotcha games,” he said. “It takes forever to do anything and that often means it never gets done.”
But the Republican governor also said the framers of the Constitution anticipated this, creating a federal government with limited powers, giving the real power to the states and the people. States, he said, chart the future.
“After all, federalism is not only a structure that prevents the excesses and excesses of those who would take away our freedom, federalism is also a structure that allows people to exercise their freedom,” Youngkin said. . “Acting together to improve their communities, make their states a better place to live, work and raise a family, live a good life and help make life better for others.”
He quoted French author Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the United States in the 1830s and wrote “Democracy in America.”
“De Tocqueville made many salient observations during his tour of America, but none were more important than his belief that the health of this democracy and of every democracy depends on the preservation of decision-making at the closest level. of the people,” Youngkin said. “He said when government is centralized and distant, people don’t think the well-being of their communities is their responsibility.”
Youngkin compared the government of Richmond to that of Washington. He said that in his four years in office, the Virginia legislature will likely consider about 14,000 bills, 3,500 to 4,000 of which could reach his desk. He compared that to the 89 bills the US Congress introduced to the president’s office last year.
“Each of the bills that come before me as governor will deal with a single topic, as required by our state constitution,” Youngkin said. “They are not like those massive omnibus bills in Congress that span hundreds of pages and cover thousands of topics with no ability to make individual political judgments or approve or reject individual spending. At the state level, the details of policies are not left to legislative staffers, but delegates and senators debate them passionately in committees and in the House and Senate.
And he told the symposium audience that these were not minor pieces of legislation. Truth in sentencing laws, welfare reform, and education standards came from the states and became models, influencing national public policy.
Youngkin urged young people to get involved.
“If you want to serve and make a difference immediately, choose a state capital and join the front lines of state-level self-government. Engage in the hard work of democracy where democracy works hard rather than barely works. Because we might need your help.
Youngkin also cited the fundamental principles embodied in the Bill of Rights.
“It has been said that the only truly original idea of the Founding Fathers was freedom of religion,” Youngkin said. “No country before ours has had the vision or the courage to declare that faith is a matter of individual conscience, a God-given right that occupies a space that no government, democratic or otherwise, can invade. Virginia led the way here. And if religious opinions could not be stifled, neither could any other form of individual expression. And so the First Amendment comes to represent the first principle. Freedom of expression is the hallmark of a free society.
But he also wondered how well that free speech is doing in governments, businesses and on campuses across the country.
“Our great colleges and universities attract diverse people from across the country and around the world,” the governor said. “But when they arrive, do the students find that these communities are open, welcoming to diverse ideas? Are they encouraged, equipped and empowered to think for themselves and express their opinions without fear? Or are they more often subject to a stifling conformism? Dull ideological similarity?
“I cherish the debate,” he said. “I’ve seen time and time again that it’s the merit of the arguments that wins us, not the volume of the voice.”
Youngkin said the greatest threat to democracy today is not foreign but domestic.
“The greatest threat to our democracy comes from a growing tendency to hate rather than listen,” he said. “It comes from a desire to intimidate, not to persuade. Such a culture of contempt, this culture of cancellation, is toxic to our democracy and unless the schools that exist to teach our young people take responsibility for be a solution, our democracy will indeed be in danger.
Youngkin also underlined the fundamental importance of the rule of law – and the risks that arise when it is not respected.
“This principle of equal justice before the law and loyalty to the rule of law is particularly important in these troubled times in which we live, with so many of our institutions and ideals under attack, with so many politicians ready to justify all means to achieve a partisan goal or to bend any fact to fit a partisan narrative,” he said. “We desperately need young, dare I say young lawyers, with the clarity and integrity necessary to uphold the rule of law.”
Youngkin said the constitutional principles discussed at the symposium were vital to the survival of the republic.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity, an obligation to implement these principles and pass them on. I hope I opened a door that some of you would consider a state-level service.
Youngkin was introduced to the symposium by law school dean Risa Goluboff, who is also an Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law. Goluboff said the governor left the business world because he was called to public office. She said she hoped such a call would resonate with students in the public, adding that with their law degrees, they hold a public trust that they can fulfill in many ways.
“Governor. Youngkin provides an excellent role model for this task,” she said. “It is possible to have immense success in the private sector as he did and then enter government when he was called upon to do that, to apply the skills you learn in another setting, to be a basketball player and an engineer, and a CEO and a governor.
Youngkin was a mechanical engineering major at Rice University, which he attended on a basketball scholarship, and an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School. He spent 25 years with the Carlyle Group, helping to build it into one of the world’s leading investment firms, before deciding to pursue public office.
Founded in 1983, the UVA Chapter of the Federalist Society remains one of the oldest and most active chapters in the nation with nearly 100 current dues-paying members and many more who attend its events, such as its lecture series , debates and panels.