The Claremont Institute presents the Henry Salvatori Prize each year to an individual “who has distinguished himself or herself by an understanding of, and actions taken to, preserve and foster the principles upon which the United States was built.”
In December 2021, Professor Jean Yarbrough received the prize. As a professor of government at the College, she has a duty to turn it down.
The Claremont Institute, with a stated goal of “saving Western civilization,” is no run-of-the-mill conservative think tank. It is a powerfully positioned, suit-and-tie insurgency movement, bent on undermining democratic institutions in service of an uncompromising reactionary agenda.
The organization champions “counter-revolution,” based on the premise that America’s founding principles only exist today in the “hearts and minds of a minority of citizens.” This extreme outlook is on regular and proud display by the institute.
Claremont Institute President, Ryan Williams claimed in an interview with the Atlantic that the Constitution is fit for only “a majority Christian people.” In an article published in Claremont’s publication, “American Mind,” Senior Fellow Glenn Ellmers stated that “most people living in the United States are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.” The Institute also collaborated on a pre-election report that currently serves as an instruction manual for rounding up activists in opposition to their politics and reinstalling former President Trump for another term.
These positions are not just antithetical, but offensive to Bowdoin’s stated mission to create a “moral environment, free of fear and intimidation … where differences can flourish.” They also contradict Bowdoin’s commitment to “prepare students to engage thoughtfully and with effect in civic life,” which President Rose highlighted in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection. It is inappropriate for the College to celebrate recognition by such a reprehensible organization.
Professor Yarbrough’s conservatism is rooted in decades of principled and intellectually rigorous study of American Political Theory. She is revered by Bowdoin students as a brilliant, dynamic and open-minded professor, willing to engage with ideas across the political spectrum. Her association with Claremont undermines this reputation, and provides academic cover for a menagerie of far-right conspiracy theorists and insurrection apologists.
Alumni of the Institute include alt-right activist Jack Posobiec, who popularized the “pizzagate” conspiracy, and John Eastman, a lawyer whose memos outlining a strategy for reinstalling Trump as President set the stage for the January 6 riot. The “American Mind” continues to feature and spotlight the work of Daren J. Beattie, a Trump speechwriter fired for association with white supremacists, who tweeted during the January 6 attack that various Black political leaders should “learn their place,” and “take a knee to MAGA.”
Professor Yarbrough has undoubtedly distinguished herself by her commitment to the principles upon which the United States was built. However, an organization that regularly platforms anti-democratic demagogues—such as Posobiec, Eastman, and Beattie—has no basis on which to confer such an award. So, why should Professor Yarbrough accept it?
Colter Adams is a member of the Class of 2024.
Editor’s note 02/13/2022 at 12:10 p.m. EDT: A previous version of this article incorrectly provided Professor Yarbrough’s first name. The article has been updated to reflect that Professor Yarbrough’s first name is Jean, not Janet as was previously reported. It has also been updated to correct the spelling of Yarbrough’s last name as Yarbrough, not Yarborough as was previously reported.