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    Acton University celebrates 10th anniversary

    Acton University is a four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. It is an opportunity for people to deepen their knowledge of philosophy, theology and sound economics. The 2015 Acton University had 1,800 applicants and nearly 1,000 attendees fill up the halls of the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, breaking all previous application and attendance records.

    Keynote speakers included Samuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, who opened the conference with a speech on truth, reason and equality. He was followed by Greg Thornbury, president of The King’s College, and Joel Salatin, self-described “lunatic farmer.” Rev. Robert Sirico, Acton’s president and cofounder, closed the event by giving Friday’s evening plenary. Marketing and tourism experts from Experience GR also had a presence during the week, promoting the conference to Grand Rapids residents, sharing information about the city with Acton U attendees and creating promotional materials for Acton.

    Judi Niedercorn, a first-time Acton U attendee, shared her thoughts on the week with Acton staff. She said she walked away both intellectually challenged by all the lectures and pleased with everyone she met, from “famous thought leaders” to Acton’s “bright, engaging interns.” She summarized her week by saying that “nobody can walk away from those days at Acton University unchanged or uninvigorated to go forth and do good and great things!”

    Acton U attendees also took part in one of the biggest religious news events of the year. Pope Francis released his highly anticipated encyclical Laudato Si’ that week. Various individuals joined in the global conversation using social media. Television cameramen and reporters from local stations interviewed Acton staff and guests about the encyclical, and several individuals recorded official statements on the encyclical that can be viewed online at

    If you’re interested in hearing any lectures, class sessions, or dinner keynotes from Acton U, please visit

    From Our Conference Participants

    As a business school dean at a Christian school, I spend my life integrating scripture and business theory. Acton has provided me with a huge boost in my understanding of the theological language and perspective on the subject.

    —2015 Acton University Oikonomia Fellow I am a Charismatic eating dinner with a Baptist, a Catholic, a Presbyterian, a Methodist, a Wesleyan, and an Orthodox Christian … only at Acton University!

    —Scott C Newport News, Virginia

    Profile of an Acton University attendee: Yasmine Joseph

    Yasmine Joseph traveled almost halfway across the globe from her home in Islamabad, Pakistan, to attend Acton University. Yasmine works as the head of country programs for the humanitarian relief organization Caritas Germany. Caritas is the Latin word for “charity,” and over the past 22 years, Yasmine has worked as “a representative of Christ’s love” by providing humanitarian relief in the wake of natural disasters and other emergencies throughout Central Asia. Yasmine’s work has included assisting in the relief effort after the devastating earthquake in Nepal this past April.

    Yasmine is grateful that Acton U has provided her “broader vision and exposure” in relation to her job, and as a result, she plans on encouraging many of her colleagues to attend next year.

    According to Yasmine, Acton U has provided “access to religious courses” that she has never been exposed to before. She also believes it has “expanded her knowledge base” and helped her improve the impact of her humanitarian relief work and facilitate vibrant communication with individuals in her community. Additionally, she hopes to share with her colleagues her newfound inspiration to discover more about freedom and virtue. She plans to begin this intellectual journey by delving into the extensive list of recommended books and resources she accumulated from the various lectures at Acton.

    Acton University lecture capsule: Islam, markets, & the free market

    The Middle East is an intriguing and complex region rich with diversity of culture, religion, geographical makeup, politics and economics. However, a significant number of countries in the region have also experienced long-lasting wars and political strife, and are known for that instead of their capacity to grow economically. In his Acton lecture titled “Islam, Markets, and the Free Society,” journalist Mustafa Akyol urged his audience to understand that if we want to have a positive impact in the Middle East, the answer is economic investment, not more military intervention.

    Akyol’s lecture touched on Middle Eastern history, Islam, governments and the interplay of all three of these elements. Students learned about the historical success of the Arab world and how it was once a center of innovation and wealth. Until the 12th century, per capita income in the Middle East was higher than that of Europe. Why did the region stagnate while Europe moved ahead? Akyol argued that trade was significant in this development. The Middle East used to be the center of trade for the world, but with the discovery of the Americas and the Horn of Africa, the center of trade shifted to Europe. The Middle East did not recognize that it was stagnating while Europe was moving ahead until the Europeans began colonizing the region.

    Secularists say Middle Easterners will succeed if they get rid of religion, while conservative Muslims believe they fell behind because of a lack of religion. While people in the Middle East often hold one of these two beliefs, Akyol proposes a third solution. If the Middle East can regain free trade and get rid of excessive restrictions, the region can once again be competitive in the world economy. Forced religion does not work. In fact, “the way to be pious is to be free.”

    Acton announces date and keynote of 25th Annual Dinner

    Mark your calendars! Acton’s Annual Dinner and 25th Anniversary Celebration will be on October 21, starting with a cocktail hour at 6 p.m. EDT in the Steelcase Ballroom at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This black tie preferred gala will celebrate 25 years of promoting a free and virtuous society. Dinner and opening speeches will begin at 7 p.m. Rev. Robert Sirico, Acton’s president and cofounder, will give the keynote address.

    Many know Rev. Sirico as a public intellectual. He often appears in the pages of prominent newspapers and on radio and television programs to provide statements regarding economics, civil rights and religious issues. Rev. Sirico’s contributions have been carried by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Washington Times, CNN, ABC, CBS, NPR, the BBC, among others. In his recent book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, Rev. Sirico shows how a free economy is not only the best way to meet society’s material needs but also the surest way to protect human dignity against government encroachment.

    “Rev. Sirico shows how a free economy is… the surest way to protect human dignity against
    government encroachment.

    There are two sponsorship opportunities for this event: Liberty Circle and Lord Acton Circle. A Liberty Circle sponsorship costs $3,000 and includes premier seating for a table of 10 and recognition for the contribution. A Lord Acton Circle sponsorship costs $5,000 and includes VIP seating for 10, recognition for the contribution, and invitations to a private cocktail reception with Rev. Sirico. Due to limited seating, it’s advised to reserve a sponsorship. Single-seat tickets for this dinner are $150 each, and all guests will receive a commemorative Acton Institute 25th Anniversary lapel pin. We hope to see you in October! For more information and to register online, visit, or contact Nick Porter at 616.454.3080 or [email protected]

    Acton in the News

    “…capitalism has spurred the greatest reduction in global poverty in world history: The number of people living on $1.25 a day fell to 375 million in 2013 from 811 million in 1991, according to the International Labor Office.”

    —Excerpted from Rev. Sirico’s article in The Wall Street Journal.


    Rev. Robert Sirico


    Title: The Pope’s Green Theology
    Publication: The Wall Street Journal
    Date: 6.18.15

    Kishore Jayabalan

    Title: Reaction to Eco-Encyclical
    Program: News Nightly—EWTN
    Air Date: 6.18.15

    Jordan Ballor

    Title: Why Big Oil Wants A Carbon Tax
    Publication: The Federalist
    Date: 6.29.15

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