Each year, Regent University’s Robertson School of Government (RSG) holds a lecture to remember its namesake, Senator A. Willis Robertson. Frank Atkinson, a man with a lengthy record of public service in Virginia and the United States, visited the university on Tuesday, November 3, to describe the history and current nature of Virginia’s political landscape.
“Today is Election Day which makes it an especially good time to be here at a place that is so involved in educating a new generation about the legacy we have as Americans, about our democratic institutions, and then about the practical application of those values and today’s challenging times,” said Atkinson, chairman of McGuireWoods Consulting.
Guests learned more about the history behind Virginia’s competitive political climate and Senator Robertson, a man remembered for his dedicated service to Virginia and the United States congress where he served on the Banking and Currency Committee. He is known in Virginia for legislation that developed a highway system throughout the Commonwealth, and for raising a small ammunition tax to fund wildlife conservation efforts.
“Senator Robertson was a consistent conservative. First and foremost, he was very interested in individual citizens doing their duty,” said Dr. Eric Patterson, RSG dean. “There are many quotes by him talking about how important it is for citizens in a democracy, not only to know themselves, but to know what their role is in society.”
RSG’s mission is to train the next generation of leaders in the Judeo-Christian principles that undergird the United States, specifically the values of representative government, constitutional democracy and individual freedom.
“All of those values are exactly the kinds of things Senator Robertson campaigned for and worked for,” said Patterson. “They are the values that we emphasize, not in a partisan way, but in terms of what were the values of the Founding Fathers. We consider what are classical American virtues, and how do you put those into practice in the public sphere?”
Atkinson’s presentation examined Virginia and its role in American politics as the “cradle of democracy,” whose founders created classical American virtues and introduced them to the public sphere. He spoke from experience, having served in the Cabinet of Virginia Governor George Allenn, the Justice Department, and attorney general’s office during the Reagan administration.
“I think when you look at politics, you see the critical importance of having people of integrity, faith, reason and commitment,” said Atkinson. “We face some challenging times, and it seems like the political environment is characterized by contentiousness and self-advancement as the focus, but we have a great tradition of public service in Virginia. I was very pleased to have the invitation and come speak at a lecture honoring Willis Robertson who had such an impact on Virginia and U.S. politics. He was a true example of a public servant, as well as the chancellor, Pat Robertson, and his role in politics; it’s a great legacy that young people have as they come here to learn about our democratic institutions.”