Academic All-Stater Column

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence
Academic Awards Program

Banquet speaker Akhil Amar and Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence chairman David Boren congratulate 2016 All-Stater Nathan Levit of Tulsa.

Academic All-Stater Column

Public Policy Student In His Element at Awards Banquet

(Academic All-Stater Nathan Levit shares his insights on the 2016 Academic Awards Banquet. A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Levit is pursuing a degree in public policy at Princeton University.)

It was during the wintry days of working on my first school board campaign that I fell in love with the tedious yet virtuous process of governing. As far as quixotic passions go, there are few as important and implication-ridden as the one Professor Akhil Amar and I share: the American system.

Therefore, when I first heard that Professor Amar would be our banquet speaker, elation overtook me. His knowledge of the Constitution is unparalleled, and his sheer love for the subject is almost indescribable. I anxiously drove to Norman on the day of the event excited to see Professor Amar and my personal hero, President David Boren. Through the discussion and the keynote address later in the day, I was able to get a glimpse into two minds that will go down in the annals of history.

The biggest highlight for me occurred in the much-anticipated discussion. I hurriedly took my seat on the front row and was immediately captured by the eagerness that President Boren and Professor Amar expressed in hearing the thoughts of the students. The exclusive, hour-long discussion with just 102 of us in the room was notable not only for the wise words of our two guests, but also for how many questions the two of them asked of us. They were genuinely interested in getting the take of young adults on the issue and finding out our hopes for Oklahoma and the United States. It was refreshing: two thought leaders felt that it was important to hear our opinion.

The conversation ranged from whether or not America is still the sole superpower to the true meaning of living in the world’s melting pot, or, as Professor Amar eloquently put it, the “true United Nations.” We discussed the meaning of being a world leader versus a world power, and how long America’s prominence will endure. It was a powerfully candid conversation, immersing the Academic All-Staters in a deeper interpretation of our founding.

For me, Professor Amar’s talk was an homage to what the Constitution calls on us to do. In Amar’s scholarly opinion, it tells us to pay it back and pay it forward.  He does this by offering a scholarship in his parent’s name, given out to one undergraduate student at Yale, and he implored every single one of the All-Staters to find something similar in our own lives. The crux of his argument was that the Constitution of the United States is the single largest catalyst for positive change in human history. He has a distinct knack for including surprising bits of historical anecdotes that shape one's outlook on time tested questions. By introducing the audience to time-worn figures like Founding Father James Wilson, he shows us the forgotten heroes of America’s improbable experiment of a government of, by, and for the people.

Professor Amar, both in the private discussion and keynote speech, convinced me that the Constitution is a living document, asking of each one of us to help create a more perfect union.