Politics professor passion for American ideals was formed in the crucible of her family history and the stability of her upbringing in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Raeder, the recipient of PBA’s 2017 Charles and Hazel Corts Award for Outstanding Teaching, is the daughter of parents who saw up close the horrors of totalitarianism. Her mother spent the long years of World War II in Austria, and her father was forced to join the Hitler Youth before being smuggled out of Europe through Italy in the late 1930s. They met in the U.S. after the war and the result was a very American family of three sisters and a brother growing up Philadelphia – “the cradle of liberty,” as Raeder likes to point out.
“I’m an American patriot through and through,” she says, unabashed. “The American political ideal is the most noble in the history of the world. It was the first to explicitly to focus on protecting the inalienable natural rights of each and every individual. It would be tragic beyond measure if that were to die. … That’s why I teach and write.”
And write she does.
Raeder is the author of numerous scholarly publications exploring the nature and development of the Western liberal tradition, including a monograph on the religious thought of J.S. Mill, chapters and articles on Hayek, Burke, Marx, Augustine, Voegelin, and related subjects. Her books include “John Stuart Mill and Religion of Humanity,” “The Dilemmas of American Conservatism,” the “Freedom in American Society” trilogy, and her latest “The Transformation of American Society: Progressivism, Multiculturalism and Tolerance.”
She also is has been associate editor of Humanitas, published by the National Humanities Institute, since 1994.
Education is the most fundamental requirement for the health of America’s unique society, says Raeder, noting that she is grateful for her Catholic school upbringing and her lifelong passion for learning that first earned her a bachelor of science from Virginia Commonwealth University, followed by a masters of education from the University of Virginia, masters of politic science from the University of Richmond, and finally a doctorate in politics and American government from Catholic University of America.
Raeder taught at the Center for U.S. Studies in Wittenberg, Germany, before coming to PBA in 2001 to teach political theory and political economy. But understanding the evolution of political thought throughout history requires something deeper than a grasp of the legalese of varying governmental structures; it requires an understanding of the unique religious and moral underpinning of our society, she says.
“Our constitution is based on God-given rights,” she says, and poses the questions: “Why have free institutions emerged only in the West, in what once was called Christendom?”
Those are questions Raeder works through with her students, many of whom come in to class ignorant of America’s history and the role Christian faith played in its development.
“It’s not their fault. I don’t get mad them. Our school systems have failed them,” she says. “Progressives and fellow travelers have corrupted the language. So we have to reconstruct for (students) the historic meaning of freedom. … We have to reinvigorate our traditions.
“I want to use my abilities to explain these things to students.”
That’s why Raeder says she is “thrilled” about the revamping of PBA’s Politics Department under the leadership of her long-time friend and colleague Dr. Francisco Plaza. The department will focus on political theory, world politics and American government with an eye toward the contribution of Christian thought and practice to the evolution of Western constitutionalism.
“I love PBA … (and) I’m so grateful to be a part of putting this political program on the map,” she says.. “There are not many politics departments that focus on the Christian origins of limited government.”
For Raeder, teaching is her life and she says she likes it that way. Single with no children, she dotes on her three cats and loves the outdoors and art. “I’ve never been a believer in the idea that you can have it all,” she says. “One must make choices. I came to realize that my real calling in life is scholarship. My love is expressed through my work.”
Despite what Raeder describes as the negative impact of alien political ideas on American society and our young people, she says she also sees signs that inspire hope for the preservation of our unique culture. But, she adds, “education is the fundamental requirement.”
“Students still care,” she says. “They still want to know: What can I do?”