Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty. They are nurseries of skillful Teachers for the schools distributed throughout the Community. They are themselves Schools for the particular talents required for some of the public Trusts, on the able execution of which the welfare of the people depends. They multiply the educated individuals from among whom the people may elect a due portion of their public agents of every description; more especially of those who are to frame the laws; by the perspicuity, the consistency, and the stability, as well as by the just and equal spirit of which the great social purposes are to be answered…What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support?
James Madison University is the only university named for James Madison, the "father of the U.S. Constitution" and fourth president of the United States. In many ways the connection to Mr. Madison’s legacy is much deeper than the name only.
As we prepare to celebrate commencement, it is important for us to bring Mr. Madison to life for our university community. For acknowledging Madison is not intended as a history lesson. We believe that understanding Madison and his achievements is understanding liberty and its foundations. And if each graduate can leave this university with that awareness crowning their outstanding JMU education, then liberty can be multiplied wherever they may go.
President James Madison himself expressed this notion well when he wrote to Congress that when well-instructed graduates returned to their communities, "…sources of jealousy and prejudice would be diminished, the features of national character would be multiplied, and greater extent given to social harmony." Most JMU students are Virginians, about one-third come from throughout the United States and from more than 80 countries. So, if what James Madison wrote is true for this the graduating class for the winter of 2011, James Madison University will proudly send nearly 1,000 agents of liberty and social harmony to the Commonwealth of Virginia and throughout the world.