J.D. Rimann, Publius Fellow 2019
First Year Law Student at Southern Methodist University Dedmon School of Law
What is your current position?
I’m currently a 1L (first-year) law student at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. Prior to attending SMU I spent several years working in Texas politics in various roles.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I have had the opportunity to work closely with several attorneys and judges over the last several years and was inspired by the good work that I have seen them do. Plus, Lincoln and Hamilton were both attorneys, and they turned out alright!
What are you currently working on?
Lots of reading for class! Haven’t taken Constitutional Law yet, but looking forward to applying some of what I learned at Claremont when I do!
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
Through the website for CRB, which I’ve enjoyed reading for many years.
What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
My fondest memory of the Claremont Institute was the night that I spent with several of the other Publius Fellows smoking cigars and enjoying whiskey with Michael Uhlmann. He had an absolute treasure chest of stories from his time spent on the frontlines of the movement, and of course he possessed such a wonderful wit and sense of humor.
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?
What makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique is the intense focus on objective truth and the importance of first principles. The Fellows who attend the programs and the scholars who lead them are dedicated to seeking out truth and applying it to our own politics, and that is a rare thing today.
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?
It would have to be either Alexander Hamilton or Abraham Lincoln (although if we are going purely on quality of the conversation, John Hay might be the best option of all!). We would discuss the difficulties of founding and guiding a republic and the importance of firmly and boldly holding fast to truth, and we would probably do so over cigars and whiskey.
What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country? Why?
Either the Declaration of Independence or Lincoln’s copy of Blackstone's Commentaries. In a sense, it is hard to determine which had the more profound impact on the history of the United States!
In which one of the original 13 colonies, looking back on history, would you have wanted to live? Why?
Georgia, because it would have put me the closest to Texas, where I would have immediately headed!
Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?
This is the quintessential Claremont question, isn’t it? I would have to go with Lincoln. Washington truly deserves the title Father of the Nation, but without Lincoln the United States does not survive and the Union is not persevered. It was Lincoln’s vision and statesmanship that saw clearly what had to be done from the moment he was elected through the end of the war; it was only through his guidance and righteous force of will that at the end of the greatest trial in American history the nation could proclaim that “The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won.”
What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?
There is a crisis of first principles in the United States today. Leaders and thinkers in both parties put human capital above human dignity. We need to go back to a politics—and once more become a polity—that puts the well-being of the citizen and their family at the center of every decision made, and which sees citizens and voters as fellow human beings, not as votes to be collected or as dollars to be made.
What qualities will make outstanding statesmen/women in this century?
A strong sense of duty, honor, and justice paired with a desire for the truth. And a cool head is, of course, a prerequisite for statesmanship.
What is your most profound memory of your year spent in West Africa with Mercy Ships?
Now this is a hard question! The general experience of serving, of being Christ’s hands and feet, and of seeing the vast differences in human culture bridged by a common humanity and a common faith are the things that really stuck with me from my time with Mercy Ships. They do truly incredible work and it was a blessing to have had the opportunity to work with them.
What books are you currently reading?
Currently, I am reading J.R.R Tolkien’s recently-released The Children of Húrin, which was formed out of his unpublished materials by his son Christopher. When I was a kid I had a paperback copy of The Lays of Beleriand, which contained the lay of the children of Húrin in it, among other of Tolkien’s unpublished work, and its neat to see how Christopher Tolkien has shaped that material into the new book. I’ve also been reading a lot of Alexander Pope recently. His Essay on Man is wonderful.
What book, movie, or speech has left a lasting impression with you? Why?
One of the first books I ever read was The Iliad, and I still revisit it often. Human nature in all its wonder, glory, and despair has not changed much since Homer first composed. Similarly, The Song of Roland is a long-time favorite and one of the classic paeans to the supremacy of virtue, honor, and glory to comfort, ease, and even death. More recently, I’ve been getting back into Plutarch’s Lives. His portraits of Caesar and Alexander are, of course, classics of moral biography, but his lives of Pompey, Lycurgus, and Pericles are masterpieces as well. And of course, Shakespeare is an ever-present influence.
Do you have a favorite quote and if so would you share?
I’ll actually choose two! Also, it is too long to share here, but I memorized Kipling’s ‘If’ years ago and it has always been with me.
“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it..” — Oscar Wilde
“Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods”
—Thomas Babington Macaulay
What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?
There is a combination of rugged individualism and communal comity in Texas that I have never encountered outside the Lone Star State. Texans are fearless, strong, and proud of who they are as individuals, but we also have a sense of togetherness, community, and civic pride in being Texans that is increasingly rare in our globalized world.
What is your favorite cultural/recreational pastime (or hobby)? Why?
I love to read and write (sometimes essays, but mostly poetry now that I am in law school and have to actually produce research memos again). I also do a lot of running and swimming, and will knock out my first Spartan Race Trifecta this year.