Olivia Ingrassia

2021 Publius Fellow

What is your current position?

I am currently the President of a nonprofit organization that I founded last year, called Restore America. I am also an incoming law student matriculating this fall.

What are you currently working on?

Our organization will be putting on several exciting events over the course of these next few months on Long Island, so I am spending my time planning for those!

How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?

I first became familiar with the Claremont Institute a few years ago thanks to a handful of former fellows who each expressed their admiration of the Institute and fond memories from their respective fellowship experiences. In addition, I had the opportunity to interview Mike Anton in 2019 for my podcast. It was through his work that I became further engrossed in all that Claremont has to offer. I have since become an avid reader of American Mind and American Greatness, both of which have played a significant role in molding a viable vision for the future of the American right. But most importantly, I followed in the footsteps of my brother, Paul, who was a Publius Fellow the previous year (2020)!

What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?

I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to have participated in the Publius Fellowship last summer. All three weeks were packed with memorable experiences thanks to the wonderful group of scholars and distinguished professors that Claremont brings together. Equally as noteworthy was the crop of fellows I had the utmost pleasure to learn alongside, each of whom contributed their unique personalities, wisdom, and qualities which made for riveting discussions throughout our time in San Diego. It was such a wonderful group that I am proud to know, and I look forward to seeing their many continued successes in the future!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that this fellowship afforded me with the opportunity to meet and converse with Dr. Angelo Codevilla, just two months shy of his untimely passing. We were fortunate have heard his lecture which capped off the three weeks of programs; his old-world spirit and zeal was palpable, from his influential scholarship on the American ruling class to the stories of his beloved garden and California vineyard.

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?

A tree is known by its fruits: the high quality of alumni, personnel, and scholarship produced by the Institute is difficult to replicate and sets it apart from other organizations. Claremont continues to foster a distinct community of true believers who sincerely want to bring about a renewal in this country, which is a testament to its undergirding philosophy deeply rooted in the foundational principles of our nation.

Unlike many organizations or think tanks within Washington and throughout the country, Claremont truly has its finger on the pulse of the American right and is unafraid to probe the most crucial questions of our time, which is necessary should we witness the revitalization of America and the West. The Institute’s ability to adapt to, parse out, and truly come to terms with the dire situation with which we are confronted, as well as its humility to critically question the entrenched orthodoxy that has for decades defined those on their own side, have proven to be important qualities that will continue to set Claremont apart from other existing programs.

Who would it be, why, and what would you discuss, if you could have a conversation with an American Founder, or any great thinker?

Although there are far too many great thinkers to choose from, I would have to go with Saint Thomas Aquinas, for we can all benefit from the timeless wisdom of the Angelic Doctor.

What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country and why?

It would be intriguing to hold the manuscript of a letter written to Thomas Jefferson by his longtime friend, Filippo Mazzei, the Italian to whom many attribute the inspiration of Jefferson’s “all men are created equal.”

What qualities do you believe will make outstanding statesmen/women in this century?

In our highly disordered age, which is clearly unsustainable, it is imperative that our nation once again captures a sense of directionality, rightly ordered, ultimately aiming toward a higher shared good. Outstanding statesmen in this century will need to adeptly understand the precarious nature of our present moment and promote a meaningful vision forward, rather than simply defining themselves against the prevailing wisdom: What makes America worth preserving? Necessarily rooted in Christianity, the statesman – should he emerge – must understand that the highest good a sovereign political community can be ordered to is indeed the salvation of the soul. From this, all else flows: not only the baseline sense of a unified political community, but also the marks of prosperous and rich civilizations such as literature, art, philosophy, etc. Unless a state recognizes this ultimate aim as being the highest good, disorder and chaos will result; thus, an understanding of such reality on the part of our leaders in this century is a necessity.

Do you believe that a course in ethics and integrity should be taught in every academic institution? Why?

It would probably be best to implement a curriculum somewhat akin to a “Great Books” program throughout each of the country’s academic institutions in order to expose students to the Western canon, the positive results of which would be transformational. It is a great crime that such course of study is not freely available, and instead has mostly been rendered to a secluded section of only select institutions’ philosophy or classics departments, if at all. Having myself attended a Jesuit university that still requires students to take two courses in philosophy, I can attest to the significant benefits to an even entry-level exposure to Plato and Aristotle; any properly functioning nation should wish to inculcate its youth in truths grounded in the natural law.

What book, speech, or movie has left a lasting impression with you and why?

Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention in 2016 masterfully captured his unpredicted rise and subsequent, albeit ongoing, restructuring of the political paradigm. For the first time in decades, a meaningful vision forward – that emphasized greatness and America’s potential for excellence, rather than the usual monotonous platitudes of beltway politics – was presented, which is why Trump alone (unlike countless others prior to) has resonated so effectively with the forgotten Americans.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading a compilation of the major works of Joseph de Maistre, which includes the Considerations on France and his Essay on the Generative Principle of Political Constitutions and other Human Institutions. I am also in the middle of The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking by Saifedean Ammous.

What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?

Though the current exodus over the past two years from the state might suggest otherwise, there is still no place quite like New York. It is certainly not by accident that New York has routinely produced among the most notable figures who have shaped this nation – including, of course, Harry Jaffa himself. The pace of the city creates a particularly quick people, and in order to survive in that atmosphere, one must have a lot of grit. New Yorkers also tell it like it is, which is a fundamentally honest way of living and a quality that I deeply admire! Plus the quality of food in New York is simply superior, nowhere else compares to the experience of NYC’s real Little Italy, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx!

Do you have a favorite quote? Why does it resonate with you?

We must not lose sight of the brevity of our time on this earth, captured by the humbling reminder which greets us at the start of each Lenten season: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” (Genesis 3:19)