Walter Berns, 1919 - 2015

Walter’s devotion to constitutionalism goes deeper than the written document and the institutions it created…Walter’s work has always been informed by lifelong study of political philosophy and, therefore, also by a sensitivity to and a concern for certain extra-Constitutional yet constitutive conditions, cultural and spiritual, for the flourishing of the American constitutional order: civic virtuelove of country, and the education of the young.

— Leon Kass


As a boy in 1920s Chicago, Walter Berns (1919–2015) watched survivors of the Indian Wars march down Michigan Avenue during the Memorial Day parade. At school, he memorized the Gettysburg Address and revered Abraham Lincoln as “a genius . . . our greatest patriot.” These beginnings sparked a love of country that led the political scientist throughout his long and distinguished academic career.
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Walter Berns was a student of Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s. Like a number of Strauss students of that era, his work sought to apply the perspective of classical political philosophy to the study of American government and politics.
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The late Walter Berns was at once a patriot and a scholar, a rare combination in today’s world. Trace his story from WWII, to an artists’ colony in New Mexico, to studying under Leo Strauss, and see how he became one of the 20th century’s most noted scholars of the Constitution.

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