Journalist David Brooks and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham, C’91, entertained a packed Guerry Auditorium with a Friday afternoon discussion of power and politics. The two knowledgeable political observers and friends joined in some good-natured sparring over Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian political philosophies, and shared their thoughts on changes in Washington, attitudes toward government, and political challenges and coalitions.
Brooks, author and New York Times op-ed columnist, spoke about the process of figuring out what he believes in: a limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility (“in the Whig tradition”). He and Meacham shared anecdotes about political leaders; as Brooks noted, “It sounds like name-dropping, but I call it reporting.” Video of their conversation is here.
Brooks was on campus as the university’s Baccalaureate speaker, and received a standing ovation from students and their families following his Saturday morning address in All Saints’ Chapel. His audience listened attentively and with occasional roars of laughter to the talk, in which Brooks combined humor, philosophy and appreciation for a liberal education.
He shared with the seniors a few things not to worry about as well as things they should worry about. Things not to worry about include “will I be happy?” and “will I find my passion?” (Brooks’s answer to the second: you won’t find your passion, but your passion will find you—with the example of Dorothy Day. The lesson: Don’t think about what you want from life. Think about what life wants from you.)
The things graduates should worry about are “will I marry well?” and “will I develop my second Adam?” Brooks called the decision of whom to marry the most important decision in life, and suggested reading Jane Austen and George Eliot for guidance. The second question draws from philosopher Rav Soloveitchik’s writings on “majestic Adam” and “covenantal Adam,” and the idea that living in the contradiction between the two can sometimes propel us to greatness. He left the graduating seniors with the hope that they will have the ability to experience the joy of an “Adam II” life well-lived. Read Brooks's address here.