If you look back at what Princeton and Brown and Harvard and all the other colonial and early 19th-century institutions of learning, now considered among the best ever, thought about public issues then, you may be discouraged. But that would be wrong. Yes, many of them supported slavery and other institutions we now reject. Many were very prejudiced in what sorts of students they accepted or rejected. Many were bigoted in Christian ways. But think, how could they have been different? How could they have believed that Jews were not as good as Christians? Blacks as good as whites? Catholics as good as Protestants? They could not and should not be expected to have been different from what they in fact were.

How could they not have supported the American Revolution which, from a really nonpartisan perspective, could easily have been considered wrong, selfish, unwarranted, and unjust? Personally, I believe the American Revolution was indeed wrong and not justified, but I don't expect to find those who at the time were in favor of it to be wrong as they saw things. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of these people centuries ago before we make judgments.

We should, on the other hand, be willing to judge our current leaders and their proposals without fear or cowardice. We have the right and the duty, not to judge the past, but to judge our own present day.