Adam Hines' Constitutional studies through the University of Oklahoma will, like many students this week, take him across the commencement stage.
But it's also taking him to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Hines, a senior, has been invited to the highest court in the land as a guest after his submission to the "Journal of Supreme Court History" landed him the Hughes-Gossett Student Award. His entry, "Ralph Waldo Emerson & Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: The Subtle Raptures of Postponed Power," will appear in the May edition.
"I kind of prepared myself that maybe it would eventually get published, but it would take a few tries," Hines said. "When I submitted it, and I got the message that they accepted it and they wanted to put it in their next issue, yeah, it was a complete shock. And it wasn't for a few months that I learned I would also be receiving the Hughes-Gossett award. That's what shook my world view a little."
It is rare for an undergraduate to win the Hughes-Gossett, much less have an article published in the Journal of Supreme Court History. Hines said when he brought his idea of how the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., it was his mentor Andrew Porwancher, associate professor of American constitutional history at OU, who suggested submitting it. While it was perhaps a long shot to be published, Hines said Porwancher encouraged him and pushed him to constantly improve as he moved from first draft to final.
"Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to spend time as a student or research fellow at a number of universities -- including Oxford, Cambridge, and Princeton -- and I never encountered an undergraduate humanities major at any of those institutions who published an article in an academic journal," Porwancher said. "Adam is the first I've come across. The fact that The Journal of Supreme Court History is among the leading publications for the study of legal history makes his accomplishment all the more impressive."
Holmes was a Civil War veteran who served as a Supreme Court justice from 1902 to 1932. He is best known for writing the majority opinion in the famous case Schenck v. United States, in which his phrase "clear and present danger" became a precedent in cases where the First Amendment right to free speech was in question.
But when the court applied that standard to uphold the convictions of two men who distributed leaflets demanding that production of weapons for World War I be cut back, Abrams v. United States, Holmes wrote the dissenting opinion, saying it had been applied incorrectly. It is in this writing in particular that Hines said Holmes' fascination with Emerson's work was clear to him.
"It's a very impassioned dissent," Hines said. "He's making this argument, but it's kind of an argument that goes with this American idealism of the right to free speech. His words and style stir an emotion in you that you don't really experience in other writings. This is literary, this is poetic."
Hines said he found evidence of Holmes' enjoyment of Emerson's poetry from when he was a first-year student at Harvard to when he was in his 90s. Hines' article displays how this went beyond just writing style, and that Holmes' ideas on application of the law even had roots in Emerson.
"It's basically a look at an argument for a continuity of ideas and philosophies from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., which is one of the biggest legal names in the country," Hines said.
As an Honors College student, Hines used this subject -- which happens to be an intersection of his letters and constitutional studies major -- for his independent study project. He began the research last summer and began writing in the fall.
For the award, Hines will travel to Washington, D.C. in June and be recognized at a ceremony in the courtroom of the Supreme Court.
Hines said if it wasn't for the professors, courses and resources available at OU, he never could have achieved this.
"Really, this article is the consequence of the things I was exposed to in that major," Hines said. "It was part of what ended up pointing me in that direction."
Constitutional studies is not commonly found at universities across the country, Porwancher said. So Hines' award is also a show of OU's strength in the area.
"The University of Oklahoma is one of the only universities in the country to offer a Constitutional Studies curriculum, and the Hughes-Gossett Student Award is an indication not only of Adam's remarkable talent but also of OU's status as a national leader in Constitutional education," Porwancher said.