Elle Rogers

2020 Publius Fellow

What is your current position?
I’ve just started my first year at the University of Chicago Law School.

What inspired you to choose this career path?
I’ve always loved the Constitution. My undergraduate studies at the King’s College and with organizations like the Intercollegiate Studies Institute introduced me to the intellectual roots of the constitutional order. The framers’ sobriety about the persistence of human pride and viciousness is held in tension with faith in the presence of better angels. Good government has to account for both, and the U.S. Constitution is unique and exceptional in doing so. I chose to attend law school because I want to help preserve the structures that enable our experiment in self-government.

What are you currently working on?
Law school!

How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
I stumbled upon Claremont’s website my freshman year of college. I’d fallen in love with American political theory and the natural right tradition after reading Democracy in America and was looking for ways to study those topics more. Five years later and I couldn’t be more grateful to be part of the Claremont family.

What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
So many after-hours interactions with fellows and faculty: reading poetry out loud by the pool, listening to Michael Anton’s stories about Harry Jaffa, debating theology and education and everything else over bourbon and the rolling hills of San Diego. I was constantly reminded that conservatism is really about demonstrating the existence of joy and communion and beauty, which often enough come through those times of just being together.

There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals.  What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?
Claremont starts with universals. Unlike many peer programs, Claremont considers changing circumstances against the backdrop of what is unchanging: namely, the principles of good government, human nature and ends, and, ultimately, justice. Locating these first things in the American founding, as Claremont does, is the precursor to its perpetuation. On a practical level, the Claremont brand is uniquely powerful: program alumni, many of them in high-level positions, have an unparalleled enthusiasm for helping other fellows professionally. 

Who would you hope the individual would be, if you could sit down and enjoy a meal with an American Founder or any great thinker?  What would you discuss?  Where would you like to meet?  What would you order to eat/drink? 
I couldn’t resist a dinner with George Washington at Fraunces Tavern, the Manhattan restaurant where he delivered a farewell address to his officers at the end of the Revolutionary War. We’d order the wine General Washington used for that evening’s toast and discuss what it takes to maintain religion and morality as the cornerstones of political prosperity.

What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country?  Why?
Nicholas Cage had it right. It’s gotta be the Declaration of Independence.

In which one of the original 13 colonies, looking back on history, would you have wanted to live?  Why?
New York. As the poet says, history is happening in Manhattan.

Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln?  Why?
George Washington showed popular government could be established. Abraham Lincoln proved it could endure. Strange as it feels to name anyone more important for his time than the indispensable man, it was Lincoln who fulfilled the vision of Washington and the fathers—and in a time when national sentiment opposed or failed to defend their axioms. In the process, Lincoln ensured the American republic wouldn’t go the way of Greece and Rome. 

What do you feel is the greatest challenge a conservative has in terms of reaching millennials?
The younger generations have been sold a secularized theodicy, one in which we confront chaos and disappointment by affirming all moral choices and leveling all outcomes. Conservatism involves sobriety about what the regime can and should accomplish, a difficult concept in which to find truth when every major institution insists that any limits to change stem only from the -isms (racism, sexism, etc.) of policymakers or voters. I do think we’re in a war over what is, and conservatives believe the world is more than chaos, disappointment, and the government programs we layer on top of them. Nature and nature’s God are accessible, even if political perfection is unattainable. We just have to communicate that.

What qualities will make outstanding statesmen/women in this century?
Firmness in the right of the nation’s founding creed, and courage (dare I say thumos?) to actualize its entailments for twenty-first century America.

What do you think has been the major contributor to the demise of our country’s lack of political civility?
The nation has faced crises of civility before, each rooted in a bifurcation of beliefs about the first principles of the regime. That’s the case today: we can’t agree on what the founding means. If we don’t hold “all men are created equal” to be metaphysical truth, or assume the American framers didn’t mean what they wrote, we erase our firmest foundation for understanding our political opponents as co-citizens engaged in perpetuating liberty. Lincoln believed union under the principles of 1776 could make even bifurcated parties friends and not enemies; to quote every breakup ever, I hope we can still be friends.

What do you think has been the major contributor to the redefinition of our culture in the 21st century?
The redefinition of freedom as the liberation of the self from all limits. We insist on the moral equivalence of all ends so long as they are self-chosen. A nation of careerism, free love, and cosmopolitanism—and we’re lonely, depressed, and disconnected. The corollary of this radical autonomy has become a collectivism that prizes some ends while discrediting others—and demands that the discredited embrace, celebrate, and enable ends at odds with their most fundamental convictions.

What has helped you with the discipline necessary in achieving your academic goals?
I think falling in love with ideas is largely a function of leaning into the learning process. Performance in any activity begins with embracing rigorous and sometimes tedious habits. For me, that’s meant trying to give each class and each reading the attention it needs, whether it’s involved outlining Democracy in America chapter-by-chapter or typing up class summaries after each session of my law school courses. I also almost always take notes by hand. The good stuff—the ‘aha’ moments, the reconciled intellectual puzzles, the euphoria of truth—you get that in the middle of the habits. There’s no shortcut. I have many at King’s to thank for calling me to such a high standard.

What books are you currently reading?
I’m never not reading Augustine’s Confessions. I’m also making my way through Plutarch’s Lives and Alone Together, by MIT researcher Sherry Turkle, which is an excellent examination of the liturgies prescribed by our technological devices and how they’re diminishing our relational capacities.

What book, movie, or speech has left a lasting impression with you? Why?
I return again and again to Plato’s Republic. There’s a wealth there, but the eleventh-hour affirmation that the just life would be infinitely happier than the unjust one even in a regime where injustice was praised and justice shamed (sound familiar?) rings ever true. I think there are few more important lessons we can draw from the Canon.

Do you have a favorite quote and if so would you share?
Paul the Apostle: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?
Nobody loves sporting events (especially collegiate basketball) like Hoosiers. I’m not particularly sporty but I admire my fellow Indiana natives’ enthusiasm because it’s paired with robust civic engagement. Indianapolis is a world-class city thanks to civic leaders and volunteers who’ve used sports as a platform for innovation and service to neighbor.

What is your favorite cultural/recreational pastime (or hobby)? Why?
I’m currently training for half marathon #4. The race was canceled due to the pandemic so my plan is to run 13.1 along the Chicago waterfront! Running is a great way to explore new places; it also strengthens my mental stamina. Plus, it gives me an excuse to try new dessert recipes (in an alternate universe I bake cakes for a living).

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’d love to be working on religious liberty litigation. Hopefully I’ll have progressed to running marathons, as well.