James Q. Wilson

On April 27, Presidential Medal Freedom honoree James Q. Wilson came to the Athenaeum to deliver the second annual Ricardo J. Quinones Distinguished Lecture. Established in honor of the founding director of the Family of Benjamin Z. Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, the Quinones Lectureship brings to the Athenaeum some of the world’s preeminent intellectuals, writers, and public figures.

Over the past four decades, James Q. Wilson has earned an international reputation for his research, writing, and insight on all manner of political, social, economic, and criminological issues. The twelve books (which include The Moral SenseBureaucracy, and Crime and Human Nature) he has authored or co-authored have helped shape public policy on juvenile delinquency, drugs, penology, and government regulation of business. His service on national commissions includes membership on the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Crime (1981) and the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1985-1990), and chairmanship of the White House Task Force on Crime (1966) and National Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse Prevention (1972-73).

To Wilson, character—and the conditions under which it may develop—has always been a primary civic concern, and a matter that should be of paramount importance not only to social scientists, but also to legislators, teachers, and leaders in local, state, and national government. In his Athenaeum address, spoke of recent developments in character-related programs—welfare, education, and crime—and of what may account for such trends as the recent decline in felony violence within the U.S. at a time when other industrial democracies have seen marked increases. Professor Wilson’s talk is co-sponsored by the Gould Center and the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World.