Inouye Lecture 2018: Restoring the American Dream

Inouye Lecture 2018: Restoring the American Dream


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Ladies and gentlemen,
the 14th Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. [ Applause ]>>Dr. Carla Hayden:
Good evening and welcome. We are so please to see
all of you here tonight for a very, very
special evening. We have to start out with saying
aloha to students and faculty of the University of Hawaii
who are watching via livestream at the Center for [inaudible]. I knew I was going to do that. Oceanography Research and
Education on the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus. Please excuse me. I am an arts and sciences
major and I knew that, but we are so delighted to have
you here tonight and on behalf of the Library of Congress,
it’s my pleasure to welcome you as we continue a wonderful
5-year collaboration with the Daniel K.
Inouye Institute to commemorate the life,
the legacy and the values of the late Senator
Daniel Inouye. As many of you know, he valued
friendship before politics; country before political party;
and honor above all else. He was a champion of freedom and
fairness, and it is a privilege for us to celebrate his
legacy this evening. This event is made possible
by the generous donation from the Daniel K. Inouye
Institute and we are grateful, very grateful to have with us
this evening the driving force behind his legacy,
Mrs. Irene Inouye. [ Applause ] We are looking forward to
next year’s celebration and we are hoping that all of
you will join us and be part of a wonderful, wonderful
celebration. I’m not going to call
upon the Director of the John Kluge
Center, Mr. John Haskell who will introduce the
lecture and the panelists. [ Applause ]>>John Haskell: Thank you. And as many of you know, Dr.
Hayden has brought a new energy and dynamism to the library and that she’s only been
here two years, a little less than two years and many of us are excited to
be a part of that. As for the Kluge Center
itself under Dr. Hayden, the center had re-centered
on its original mission to be a bridge between
scholarship on the one hand and policymakers and
interested public on the other. Tonight’s event exemplifies
that purpose. Senator Inouye was a larger than
life figure here in Washington and in his home state of Hawaii. As a young man, after
the ban was lifted on Japanese American
serving their country, he enlisted in the Army
and served in a unit of Japanese American
soldiers who fought with extraordinary gallantry
in Italy, France, and Germany. On October 21, 1945, in the
war’s final weeks in Europe, he was severely wounded. He had just taken out two
German machinegun nests, he lost his right arm. He returned home with a
distinguished service cross, a bronze star medal, two
purple hearts, 12 other medals and citations, and not
incidentally a commitment to bipartisanship that may
have stemmed from the long, lifelong friendship he
formed in an army hospital with another wounded veteran,
the future Republican Senator, Vice-Presidential candidate and Presidential
candidate, Kansas’s Bob Dole. After coming home and
finishing law school, Mr. Inouye became Hawaii’s
first representative in 1959 which was the year
Hawaii became a state. Three years later, he
was elected Senator, part of freshman class
inspired by President Kennedy, which included President
Kennedy’s brother Edward. Senator Inouye served for
nearly a half a century in the senate leaving
a rich legacy that includes the National
Museum of the Native-American, prominent service on the Senate
Watergate Committee, as well as, on the Iran Contra
Committee and, of course, on the Senate Appropriations
Committee which he chaired in the last several
years of his career. He was awarded the Congressional
Medal of Honor in 2000 for his military service. After his death, he was posthumously awarded
the Presidential Medal of Freedom becoming
the first senator to receive both of those awards. Tonight, the John W. Kluge
Center at the library and the Daniel K. Inouye
Institute present the 4th in a 5-year distinguished
lecture series to commemorate Senator Inouye’s
commitment to bipartisanship, moral courage, public
service, and civic engagement. I would now like to
introduce our distinguished panelists tonight. First, E.J. Dionne who
writes about politics in a twice weekly column
for the Washington Post where he’s worked since 1990,
he’s also a government professor at Georgetown, a visiting
professor at Harvard and a senior fellow at
the Brookings Institution. He’s the sole author of 7 books. Most recently, “Why the Right
Went Wrong; Conservatism from Goldwater to the
Tea Party and Beyond.” He made his name as a major
political intellectual with the publication of “Why Americans Hate
Politics” in 1991. It’s not a new thing. Ross Douthat joined the New
York Times as an op-ed columnist in April 2009, previously
he had been senior editor at the Atlantic. He is the author of 4
books including this year, “To Change the Church;
Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism”, as well
as, “Grand New Party; How Republicans can
Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.” Our conversation will be
moderated by Ann Compton, former ABC News White
House correspondent. Ann joined ABC News in 1973. She covered 7 presidents. She’s traveled around the
globe and through all 50 states with the presidents,
their vice-presidents, as well as, first ladies. We are delighted that
she can be with us. After the conversation,
we will allot some time for audience questions,
that would be after some prerecorded
questions from students at the University
of Hawaii campuses. Please join me in welcoming
our distinguished panelists to the stage. [ Applause ] Take a seat over there. Thank you sir. Thanks Ross. [ Background Sounds ]>>Ann Compton: Good evening. Thank you. Aloha to the students who are
watching and to all of you who have come tonight to talk
about the American dream. It probably goes back
to, we hold these truths to be self-evident “All men are
created equal, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But where is the
American dream today? Is there some; can there be such
a thing in a world as diverse and deeply divided as
our times as these? Senator Dan Inouye lived
the American dream. In fact, he bled for it
as President Obama said in his eulogy when
the senator died. Ross I’m going to
start with you. You wrote recently about
the American dream, you said “It ain’t
in California.”>>Ross Douthat:
But possibly Hawaii. Right, well that, that
column was about, you know, in certain ways I would
say that the State of California has
become especially perhaps in the Presidency of Donald
Trump, a kind of idealized view of America’s political
future for some liberals and progressives and
democrats in the sense that in California
you have a situation where the Republican
Party as nationally as pretty dysfunctional, but unlike nationally is
pretty much irrelevant as well. And in that sense,
California, you know, and therefore California is
sort of not only as always sort of on the cutting edge of,
you know, new technology in Silicon Valley and the
movie industry and so on, but is also seen as being
kind of on the cutting edge of where progressive politics
could hope to be if the darkness of the Trump era should pass and the emerging democratic
majority should finally emerge. And so, the column that I wrote
was basically saying that, you know, while that might be
true if you look at the sort of sociological landscape of
California, if you look at sort of the social structure that has
emerged there, it doesn’t look at all what, like what I
think many progressives, E.J. probably included,
would argue is the essence of the American dream and we,
I mean we could sort of go back and forth on what
that essence is, but I think most people would
say that it has something to do with a mix of kind of, you know, a sort of strong
economically stable middle-class and various forms of
sort of social equality and upward mobility that sort
of intersect in different ways. And the society that
California has even under progressive governance is
a much more stratified society in which for various complicated
reasons of public policy and sort of overall
macro trends, the middle-class has
basically been priced out and so you have an
extremely wealthy upper-class that has sort of entrenched
its privileges in various ways through land use
regulations and restrictions on building and everything else. And then you have an
increasingly immigrant-base working-class that
sort of serves as sort of the service sector for that
economy and you have very little in between and you have, once
you control for cost of living, extremely high child
poverty rates, extremely high racial
gaps, you know, again whatever else the American
dream means; it has something to with the equality of
the races and the quality of opportunity and so on. And so, the takeaway from
the column I guess was that if this is the future and if this is particularly
the future that progressives are hoping
to build after the age of Donald Trump should pass, then there’s still
considerable work to be done if that future is going to sort
of dovetail with what, again, I think traditionally
Americans have sort of imagined the American
dream to be and to just to personalize it a tiny
bit as I did in the column, I’m from the East Coast,
but I was actually born in San Francisco in 1979. And I was born there
because my father was from southern California and
he grew up in Santa Monica in a period when that was a
kind of middle-class paradise. His dad was a pretty
unsuccessful small businessman, I think it’s fair to say. He ran a bicycle shop badly and
had various sort of salesmany “Willy” Lomanish jobs
and my grandmother sort of held the house
together, but they were in no way what you would
consider sort of a, you know, a major American successes. They were sort of slightly below
the middle-class, and yet they, you know, owned a small
sort of mission style home in a neighborhood that was
close to the ocean and felt like an earthly paradise and
were surrounded by people with sort of similar
means and aspirations. And, you know, there
were all kinds of sort inevitable reasons
why that couldn’t last, but it’s still notable that it
didn’t last and if you go back to Santa Monica now, all
those houses like the one where my dad grew up have
been torn down to make way for structures that are 2 or
3 times too large for the lots that they sit on and all
cost 4 or 5 million dollars and that world is gone. And, you know, it was a
racially segregated world, it was stratified in
all kinds of other ways. There are all kinds of reasons
why it’s never coming back, but it’s still notable that it
existed and then disappeared and its disappearance is one of the realities I
think underlying some of our present political
discontents.>>Ann Compton: E.J., is the
American dream even possible in our society, in a political
society that’s as deviant as Washington is now,
as this country is now?>>E.J. Dionne: Could
I just say a couple of things first if I may? One is, you know, whenever I’m with my friend Ross I feel
obligated to defend Pope Francis and now I will feel obligated to defend California
and his grandfather. [ Laughter ] I just want to say, it’s a
real joy to be at the Library of Congress and I am, I got to
say I’m the son of a librarian, so to have the opener of a
program like this be the Library of Congress is for me higher
than having the President of the United States here. So, I want to a there. [ Applause ]>>Ross Douthat:
So, more true now than in some administrations.>>E.J. Dionne: Yeah,
I was going to say, you could interpret that
many different ways, so they’re probably all
true, but so it’s a real joy to be here as part of
the in a way, program. This is my second Inouye event
this year and I got to do a talk in Hawaii and learn an enormous
amount about Hawaii politics. So, it’s great to start with a little knowledge your
learning curve is awesome. And, but I really realized that,
you know, when I was thinking about the American dream,
Dan Inouye is part of that, and that it’s one of the
ironies of our history that Japanese Americans
and non-Whites in general, in Hawaii broke through partly
because of their service in World War II and that
Hawaiian politics was revolutionized by a group of
veterans led by Senator Inouye who basically created the
modern Democratic Party. And so, I just thank the folks
associated with Senator Inouye for giving me this education. Last, I just want to
say, I’m a huge fan of Ross despite our
disagreements. I teach a class at
Georgetown on media politics and years ago I realized you
better start paying attention to this online thing in
this media politics class. And my first two guests
were a 23-year-old blogger for the Atlantic [inaudible]
my first two blogger guests, my first two opening to that
world, a 23-year-old blogger.>>Ross Douthat:
I was surely 24. I must have been at least.>>E.J. Dionne: And I believe
you were, and I’ll double-check, and a 23-year-old
blogger name Ezra Klein.>>Ann Compton: Oh, my gosh.>>E.J. Dionne: And so,
I always tell my students that my class is way ahead
of the mainstream media. And I’ve always been grateful
to Ross for being there. You know, the, I’ve
thought a lot this topic in the last few weeks
thinking, you know, about the event tonight and the
American dream is a really vexed idea that, you know, it can be
seen as a kind of romantic view of what opportunity is like
in America given the groups over our history who have
been excluded from it, but the other side of it
and it may be most powerful when it’s used as a call upon us
to make our country what it not; what it isn’t yet,
but ought to be. And two, sort of two uses
like that came to mind; one was of course Martin Luther
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and he was very explicit
in saying “It is a dream deeply rooted
in the American dream.” And as you suggested
at the beginning, he too invoked the Declaration. I have a dream that one day this
nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its
creed we hold these truths to be self-evident that
all men are created equal. But it can also be
used as a critique. Many of you know probably
Langston Hughes’ most famous poem, “What happens to a
dream deferred does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” And what I had forgotten is
how that poem ends which is “What Happens to a Dream
Deferred” the last line of the poem is, “Or
does it explode?” And it’s just sort of a reminder
of what can happen when we hold up these ideals and then
don’t live up to them. I was trying to figure out
what is a definition of this? And I think one take is that
hard work leads to success. That’s one kind of definition
of the American dream. The other is that the next
generation will do better than the previous generation. Those are sort of vexed now. We still believe, we’re
still optimists even after everything
we’ve gone through; 61% of our population
according Gallup believes that young people will live
better than their parents, but there has been a decline in
some of these number, you know, in at the right at the
turn of the millennium, 74% of us believe that people
who work hard can get ahead and that fell to 58% at
the end of the recession. And to go to just briefly to
your point, can we achieve this in a country so divided? It strikes me that we
will have trouble sort of creating public policy
that might move us forward because we are so
deadlocked about what that policy should
be, but even our view of the American dream is
now shaped by partisanship. The optimism that people had
in that Gallup survey when up because so many republicans
switched from negative to positive after President
Obama was out of office. That’s on the one side, and
the other side there was a; I was looking at a
study of millennials, at the end of the Obama years
African-American millennials were much more optimistic, were
much more likely to believe in the American dream than
White millennials were. So, it’s our view of this has
shaped partly by politics, partly by race, partly by
where we sit in this society.>>Ann Compton: You know, you touch on exactly what the
Kluge Center does and that’s to connect thought to action,
and those two common measures of the American dream as you’ve
just both just pointed out, are we, are you better
off than your parents were and the other is,
do you own a home? Ross let me start with you and
then the Kluge answer would be and what we ought
to do about it? Are you better off
than your parents? Are your kids, although
they’re small now I think, going to be better off than you? And are there things that as a
society you think can be done to push that along?>>Ross Douthat: I mean, on
the personal front we just went through a really bad real estate
transaction sort of exacerbated by illness, no it’s
a, it’s a bad time to make that assessment. I wouldn’t want to,
I wouldn’t want to apply our particular
situation for the country as a whole, but I,
but to generalize.>>E.J. Dionne: I hope this
increases your appreciation for regulation of real estate.>>Ross Douthat: That, that
and the speaking engagements and Honoria as well are
incredibly important. But I, I mean, I think
generally, You know, there’s no question that over
the last 40 years on this sort of “are you better off
than you parents” question, the country has gone through
a long period of stagnation. Tyler Cowen who, you know,
E.J. knows well is an economist at George Mason and wrote a book
called “The Great Stagnation”, basically sort of
describing this long period where the median income which
is, you know, as good a way of sort of measuring you
know the sort of heart of American life as any, the median income basically got
stuck and so it wasn’t a period of collapse, it wasn’t the
Great Depression, you know, we slowly we’ve had obviously
a severe recession recently. We’ve slowly climbed back from,
but basically it’s a story of a society where the economy
for most people seems kind of stuck and where you aren’t
sort of, you’re doing okay, you’re not in poverty, you know,
you have Welfare State Programs that sort of stabilize
things during recessions, but what we had gotten used to
during these wave of expansion in the, you know, during
the Industrial Revolution and then again in
the post war boom, just hasn’t been
there for most people. And over that same period
you’ve had a kind of hollowing out of community
in American life, because I think another aspect
of the American dream is, you know, if you go back to
sort of the people who came to visit America in
the 19th-century, Alexis de Tocqueville
most famously, and sort of what they remarked on about American
life they said, well you know you have
a weaker state here than you often do in Europe. You don’t have an
established church. You don’t have a lot of
the big institutions, but you have this incredible
community spirit often rooted in religion, but also just sort
of rooted in civic engagement in other things, you know,
from sort of the, you know, New England Town Meeting through
the culture of the Midwest and so on, and that has
obviously taken a hit over the last couple of
generations and there’s a long and complicated argument about
how those two things intertwine; how is the decline of
marriage rates and the decline of church going and the decline
of you know bowling leagues and all these things,
how is that related to economic stagnation,
how the two fit together? But that tangle is the sort of, that’s the central
policy problem I think. It’s sort of, you know,
how do you figure out one, how to get the economy working
better for most Americans? And at the same time, how do
you have a kind of, you know, a sort of civic and familial
and religious sort of, sort of a knitting back
together of the social fabric? And, you know, we have a lot
of evidence from the last 5 or 10 years that this,
you know, that things, things have actually gotten
worse in a lot of respects. I mean, the opioid
epidemic, you know, suicide rates have gone up. You know, you have a decline
in American life expectancy for the first time and
all, that’s you know sort of concentrated in
particular parts of the country and especially to E.J.’s
point, it seems to be a, there’s more sort
of social anime and despair among White
Americans than among minorities. There’s more pessimism
among working, in working class White America than there is among
Blacks and Hispanics. But whatever it is, that’s,
that’s the policy problem and to the extent there’s
a solution in, you know, I think it lies somewhere
at the intersection of the social and economic. That we should be looking for
policies that basically say, well on the one hand you
probably do need to find ways to raise wages, get more money
into the hands of the middle and the working class,
at the same time, you want those policies to sort of somehow create a
virtuous cycle with families and communities and so on
and not just become the kind of things that I
think, for instance, a lot of Trump voters sort of
rebelled against the idea that, well you know, your, I think
the Democratic Party has ended up in a position where technically its economic
policies are more popular, but people don’t like the idea that well my community
has been hollowed out, the jobs are never coming back, but at least you
know I have Medicaid. They liked more the idea that
Trump was selling of, you know, you’re going to get the
jobs back, things are going to be the way they were
before and I don’t think that was a completely honest
sales pitch, but it spoke to a challenge that I think
both parties haven’t been able to meet that combined
idea of sort of solid jobs and solid civic life
that slipped away in big parts of the country.>>Ann Compton: Yeah,
let’s stick with some of economics, go ahead.>>E.J. Dionne: Yeah, I think we
agree to a significant degree; I actually think one of the big
questions we need to grapple with is whether that decline
in community, family breakup and all of that is primarily,
conservatives tend to talk about the causal era going from
there to economic conditions; progressives tend to look at
economic conditions and say, those are actually fostering
the decline of community, the problems families confront. And in some different
worlds it would be nice to have a conversation
where I would continue to argue the importance in
economic, but that progressives and conservatives could say, you
have to care about the family and civic life and you have to
care about the economic base, but I think we’ve had
a real crisis, I mean, measured by the numbers
in social mobility since you can date it from
1973, you can date it from 1980, but opportunity does seem to
be sticking more to people in the upper middle-class
and above. My colleague at the
Brookings Institution, Richard Reeves wrote a book
called “Dream Hoarders” about the upper middle-class
and that the, it’s been easier for the and that’s not
even counting the extremely privileged, this just is that
broader top of the society, have been able to pass
along their advantages more efficiently to their kids than
earlier upper-classes have been and actually I discovered
Richard quoted something I said over lunch in a book and
thank God he’s a friend, because he quoted something I
kind of liked to repeat instead of some damn fool
thing I said over lunch of which there were
many, but you know, I said that I spend my weeks
writing columns announcing inequality and my nights
and weekends increasing it. You know, because as
somebody who is effectively in the upper middle-class
whatever class I’m in somewhere up there, I have an opportunity
to pass along benefits to my kids, you know, for no
particular virtue of mine, just because I happen to
be here and I am going to do whatever I can to help
my kids as all of us will do, but those kind of, you know, the way in which
those advantages kind of bundle together we
have less social mobility. Second thing is,
we have had less, a far less equally distributed
income growth that in the sort of great period from World
War II through the mid70s, 1980 each quintile tended
to go up roughly equally. We had not only a great
period of economic growth, but a great period of
shared economic growth. Since then, we have, it
has not been shared at all that the middle and bottom
have stagnated and a lot of the benefits have gone
to the top and especially to the very top, and
what we’re discovering, and this is I think a question
Americans have to be tough on ourselves about,
is that you know in some ways the American
dream is now a sort of Scandinavian social
democratic dream. Which is to say,
that the societies that have less inequality tend
to have more social mobility and that there, you know, I have
my conservative friends always like say I’m not for
equality results, but I am for equality
of opportunity. But what appears to be the case
is if you’re class in incomes, your class system and your
income distribution gets too far out of whack, you
lose the capacity for mass upward mobility. So, again, this probably
reflects the difference in our political view, but I think we need somewhat
more egalitarian public policies in order to produce
the degree of mobility that the American dream
suggests we ought to have.>>Ann Compton: Both of you and
I’m turning to education now, both of you went to Harvard and.>>E.J. Dionne: He wrote
a whole book about it.>>Ann Compton: Well,
and I was going to say.>>E.J. Dionne: His
about Harvard and mine is about criticizing Harvard. He joins the Catholic Church and mine’s a book
criticizing the Pope.>>Ann Compton: Ross, Ross you,
it’s been more than a decade since you wrote so lovingly
of your Harvard years.>>Ross Douthat: It was a
found; it was a found critique.>>Ann Compton: I want you
to boil, boil the 300 pages down for 6 to 60
seconds for this audience and my question is, a decade
later any second thoughts about your alma mater?>>Ross Douthat: Oh, no. I mean it’s worse than it was. I mean, no. There haven’t been, haven’t
been second thoughts. I mean, E.J. has
sort of teed this up. I think effectively
what E.J. was talking about in the Richard Reeves
“Dream Hoarders” phenomenon is in a sort of more personalized
way, part of what I was trying to get at in that book which
was called “Privilege.” And the argument was basically,
you know, sort of ripped off from smarter people, the late
Christopher Lash among others that the system of meritocracy
is not, does not, in fact, tend to be democratic, right? It tends to create a new
aristocracy that becomes in a different way jealous of
its privileges that has sort of different forms of capital
and so on and, you know, SAT scores obviously matter
much more than ancient pedigrees and so on, but that in
practice it recapitulates many of the vices of older
aristocracies and also developed certain vices
of its own like the belief that, you know, well because
we’re meritocrats we deserve to rule unlike those old
aristocrats and so we don’t need to worry about no bless of
[inaudible] things like that. So, that was sort of it in
a nutshell that basically if you look around these
schools that are there to sort of educate the elites, they are
in effect perpetuating an elite that is itself sort of both
increasingly segregated from the rest of
American society. I mean, that’s one of the
interesting things about sort of the post-70s dynamic in
American life, that you have if you go back 40 or 50
years and you look at sort of the distribution of people
with Ph.D.s and JD.s these sort of advanced degrees, they’re
pretty evenly distributed around the country. You know, you have clusters in
each state sort of local groups of academic elites and
legal elites and so on, and then you flash-forward
to the present era and they’re much more
concentrated in these sort, you know, the sort
of major East Coast and West Coast urban
centers and then sort of college towns scattered
around the country. So, you have a kind of a
much stronger segregation by education in the U.S. than
you had 40 or 50 years ago and you have sort of fewer
local elites that are sort of in touch with, you know,
Iowa, New Hampshire or whatever, you know, whatever
state they come from and you have this nationally
elite that’s less in touch with the country than it would
have been 40 or 50 years ago and that’s a dynamic
that, you know, the Ivy League schools
and sort of the U.S. ; I mean, it’s also
notable that the U.S. news and world report
rankings, right? I mean, when you think about
sort of what, you know, the U.S. news and world
report rankings never change. There’s never, I mean they of
course, they change from year to year sometimes it’s
Harvard, sometimes it’s Yale. You can, schools can sort of
work their way up the University of Chicago sort of changed
its submission policies 10 or 15 years ago and it’s
climbed dramatically, you know, things change. But there’s never, you know, there’s never a startup
university in the top 10 in the U.S. News and
world report ranking. I mean, the newest university
that’s ever there is Stanford which was founded a mere, you
know, a mere 120 years ago or whatever, and that in
itself I think is sort of a significant statement
about what these sort of meritocratic factories do. They’re there to sort of
protect their own privileges by creating, you know, by sort
of reproducing the privilege of the families and students
who attend them and, you know, all societies have elites,
this is an inevitable, an inevitable phenomenon,
but it’s still notable in a society sort of that has
such a democratic self-image that people often think of
meritocracy and democracy as being sort of
working hand in hand. But, in fact, they often
cut against each other.>>Ann Compton: Yeah. E.J. I won’t point out
that E.J. graduated from Harvard before
Ross was born. E.J. and I are.>>E.J. Dionne: Oh God,
did you have to do that?>>Ann Compton: Because I’m
even older than E.J. And, but E.J. well go ahead and
defend not only Harvard, but the idea that, that but the.>>Ross Douthat: He
can’t defend Harvard.>>Ann Compton: That, that.>>Ross Douthat: The Pope he
can defend but not Harvard.>>Ann Compton: What
can the generations look at the generations coming
out of the colleges now, they’ve got that college degree
and they are crushed by the size of their college debt?>>E.J. Dionne: Well, I want
to; one observation I want to make is that two of my very
favorite conservative writers, Ross and David Brooks whom the
late Charles Krauthammer once referred to as his
favorite liberal columnist. God bless Charles. I find that their critique of
American society is this close to being radical and if we
progressives have done something right both Ross and
David would be radicals and not the conservatives
they are, because there is a; there is a radical element of
that critique that I would, I don’t want to go on a
long defense of Harvard. It’s a wonderful institution
I happen to love it. It was very important to me. They have made efforts
both, you know, particularly in recent years with both Larry
Summers and Drew Faust to try to create more opportunities
for people of, you know, sort of in the middle and at
the bottom, but it is still about replicating an
elite and it’s not; the problem isn’t Harvard. It’s system of meritocracy
where people come to believe that they have earned all their
privilege even when they haven’t and that I think the
problem with meritocracy as an idea is not that we should
discourage people from trying to be smarter or trying to work
harder and all those things, it’s that people develop a sense
of dessert and then they look down upon all kinds
of other people who have not had the same
good fortune they had. I found over the
years in my long life, that you can tell a lot
about someone’s world view by whether they think of
themselves as totally self-make or the product of good fortune. Now, you know, we’re all
obviously have mixture of those things. None of this is to not effort
or the hard work people do, or the fact that there
are indeed people who rise from the bottom to the top, but it is to say
not only is the idea of being self-made a
biological absurdity, but it also overlooks all the
opportunities that came your way through chance, through good
fortune, through one teacher. I grew up in a placed called
Fall River, Massachusetts which is and who’s
a Fall River parts? Ah, and today by the way,
if I read my Twitter right, is Lizzie Borden’s birthday. She is from my own town. The most famous person in my,
from my home town I think. But I was having Ernie Moniz
the former Energy Secretary from Fall River and
I was talking to him about Durfee High School
and my dad and my dad’s, one of my dad’s best
friends was a physics teacher at Durfee High School named
Mr. Delare [assumed spelling] and Moniz looked at me and said, “Mr. Delare is why
I do what I do now.” And it was a great high
school physics teacher who inspired this working
class kid to become one of the world class people. So, that’s good but somebody like Ernie Moniz would
acknowledge no Mr. Delare perhaps no career
like his and all of us can tell those stories. And so, in general, I share
a lot of what Ross said about the problem of meritocracy
because it suggests to an elite that they don’t have any
obligation to give back , hat everything they earn they
earn because of their own, you know, merit, you know,
grace doesn’t enter into it, luck doesn’t enter into it, somebody else’s generosity
doesn’t enter into it, the help from the state
doesn’t enter into it. I’ll just close with one of
my favorite tweets I ever sent out which was during the
Republican Convention and Chris Christie was giving
a speech where he talked about his father going to
Rutgers a state university, on the GI Bill a government
program and I just, it was a friendly tweet. It just said, “It’s lovely to see Chris Christie
acknowledge the role of government in
his father’s life.”>>Ann Compton: But, you
now touch, I want to switch over to the overarching current
theme that affected my life as a reporter for ABC News over
the course of 7 presidents. The digital age has changed
so much in our society. I look at not only how my kids
communicate, what they read, how they communicate, but
also how Americans sometimes withdrawal from personal
communications, how they rely on information that
doesn’t have the same kind of good bone structure
of the reporting and the Washington
Post, New York Times, ABC News as it once was. The digital age has changed
everything hasn’t it Ross?>>Ross Douthat: Yes. Although, one thing it
hasn’t changed is sort of the economic landscape
to the degree that people thought it would. I mean, this is one of the
interesting, it’s not a paradox, but it is interesting
tension which is that the digital age is sort of
its where everything has ended up poured and other
areas of innovation and technological
progress and so on, have tended to whither a bit
as we’ve focused more and more and more of our energy
and interest on these tiny glowing screens. And one of the, there’s
an economist Robert Gordon who wrote a book about, called
something like “The Rise and Fall of American Growth.” And one of the points that
he made at the end was that American growth
historically was incredibly diversified, you know, the you
know you had growth in energy over here and you had growth
in construction over there and so on, and the digital
age has been much narrower and there’s a sense
in which it sort of, it sort of recapitulates
in the economy what it does to us psychologically. It’s sort of, it’s a colonizer
of our psyche, thief of our time and focus and attention, and
it’s also sort of absorbed a lot of I think sort of
energy and interest that 50 years ago would
have been more diversified, sort of spread out more
across the economy. So, that’s the only
counterintuitive point that I would make on the
changed everything point. I think to the question,
I mean what this is sort of the big unanswered social
question of American life over the next 40 or 50 years, is to what extent is digital
media a potential substitute for the decline of
community that E.J. and I, I think generally agree is a
real problem in American life. To what extent is, you know,
is social media and sort of the communities that form
online sort of are substitutes for the decline of,
you know, Elks Lodges and churches and so on? To what extent is online
dating an effective substitute for you know the decline of
real-world sort of institutions that brought men
and women together? Or to what extent is
it a sort of assimilate from a hollow substitute
basically? And since I’m, you know,
conservative and critical and pessimistic, I tend to
sort of emphasize the extent to which it might be a sort
of hollow substitute that, you know, that of course
people do fall in love online and make friends online
and all of these things, but very often they
find themselves with online friends and,, you
know, a sort of online life that seems to make teenagers,
for instance, more depressed than their peers
were 20 years ago. But, but we’re really
early in the experiment and you could argue
against me and say, well thee things are just
getting off the ground. People are just learning
to live online. It’s a disruptive technology. People will get used to it and then it will actually supply
the community that we need, but that’s, that’s the
question I think that is hanging over American society and obviously not just
American society going forward.>>Ann Compton: Alright, Ross.>>E.J. Dionne: Especially
for people younger than me.>>Ann Compton: E.J.>>E.J. Dionne: You know, it’s
funny when I think about it. I know so many younger people
and even some older people who are, you know, who
are, who lost their spouses or got divorced who have
met through online dating and I sometimes wonder, well
that’s probably more sensible than meeting in a bar. You know, which is better and
that people come to each other with more information. I met my wife on the D.C.
Metro and so I always like to say I really
am a liberal. I owe a great deal to
public transportation.>>Ann Compton: Transportation.>>E.J. Dionne: And an
agency of government. We’ve been together a longtime. The, I want to give it a
way the conservative answer that I thought actually you were
going to give, which is nothing about this technology
changes human nature. That human; I think one of the
things Ross and I broadly agree on is that human nature
is something given. You can alter the way
people behave and perhaps over time this effects the
way our consciousness works, but it doesn’t change that and
there’s a lot of me that wants to fight the idea that
technology alters us in all of these radical
ways and yet some of the change is undeniable. And so much of it is
how we educate ourselves to use this media. So on the one hand,
the parody is of people whose entire friend
groups are sort of online, people don’t talk to each other
face-to-face, but the other side of that is online is often a way in which people organize
themselves for actual social encounters
to create opportunities for face-to-face engagement. Neighborhoods have
used technology to try to bring people together. If you think back to
the Obama Campaign in 08 which was very innovative,
a lot of it began online, but ended with a
door knock, you know, which is the most
intimate kind of you know of a real human connection
being made. Where I do think it will,
and I agree with Ross. I think I’m influenced by
the same book, that we have to ask ourselves does this
take; has this technology yet changed our lives the way
the invention of the light bulb or the automobile or the
telephone did or not? And we could probably
debate some of those things. What I do worry is will we be
innovative enough as a society to replace all the jobs
that are potentially lost? And while we’ve been talking
about automation since the 50s and 60s, you sense
that that process of job destruction could be
sped up and the question is, will we be innovative
enough to create work or will the economy create work
that will make up for that? I’m reminded about great
Walter Reuther story. I can’t remember if it was
Ford or GM, I’ll say it was GM and the GM guys take
Walter Reuther the head of the United Oil Workers Union
into a brand new, you know, plant with all these
robots and machines. Then Carson, the GM guy says
to Walter Reuther “You know, these robots won’t
be paying UAW dues.” And Reuther shot back, “Yeah, and they won’t be
buying GM cars either.” And I think that is a kind of,
you know, struggle we’re going to have going forward.>>Ann Compton: I want to ask one more question
before we open this up to questions not
only from the audience but from the students in Hawaii,
I was, it was suggested to me that one of the good ways
to look forward here, especially since both of you
have connections to and contact with the younger people,
young students, journalists and how are millennials
rethinking their own view of the American dream? Let me start with you E.J.>>E.J. Dionne: Um.>>Ann Compton: Or do
they think about it?>>E.J. Dionne: Well,
there is some evidence. I’ve talked to political
pollsters who have said that the American dream idea
does not resonate with younger, with younger voters with
younger Americans in the way that it does with
older folks; although, this data on the difference between you know
African-Americans and Latinos on the one side and Whites on the other suggests there’s
an even more complicated story. But I think there
is a, you know, in you know I have three kids
in their 20s and I have talked, I don’t know I’ve been
teaching now for 15 years, so and I’ve had really
awesome students, and my sense from them, so I’m not going
to make it any more than that, is that there is for good reason
somewhat slightly less optimism about their way forward. They feel like they have had
difficulties thrown at them that were not thrown
at someone my age. You know, I was born in 1952 and
sort of reached adulthood in one of the most extraordinary
periods of growth and opportunity in
our country’s history. And actually during the 90s, so when my kids were
little I thought, gee maybe by delaying having
kids I really lucked out and created, you know,
brought my kids into a world that will match that
great period and then you know came
you know 9/11, the wars and then the economic collapse. And so, my sense is that there’s
still a lot of, I mean you know, young people have not lost
a natural sense of optimism but I think there is a stronger
sense of you know the obstacles that they face and not the easy
sense that we got of, you know, when I was a kid that
America was literally sitting on top of the world.>>Ann Compton: Yeah.>>E.J. Dionne: You know, and
you think of all that optimism and call to service
in the Kennedy years that this is something
different.>>Ann Compton: Ross
takes a swing at this before we
actually get questions.>>Ross Douthat: Sure. I mean, first think
E.J. is right. I Think that there,
you know, if you think of the millennial generation
as people who came of age after 2001, you know, we’ve
been talking about a 40 or 50-year stagnation,
but really the worst of it economically even
setting aside war and terrorism and everything else, has
been the last 15 years and if that’s your experience
of sort of entering adulthood, entering consciousness as
an American and son on, you are naturally going to
be I think more pessimistic about your prospects because
your prospects have been worse, worse by far than
your generation and somewhat worse
than my cohort. Although, 9/11 happened
my senior year of college, so there was you know, there
was a decline in the number of consulting jobs that my
fellow meritocrats were able to take. That was our great tragedy. Thank you for laughing
at the irony rather than taking me seriously. But I would also say
I think this to try and weave together the community and the internet questions
a little bit, I mean, one of the striking
things about millennials and whatever we’re
calling post-millennials, is that in certain respects they
are the best behaved generation in modern American history. If in term of drug use, teen
pregnancy, car accidents, all you know, the sort
of laundry list of things that people worry
about teenagers and early 20-somethings
getting up to, this cohort is incredibly
well-behaved. But that, that sort of good
behavior coexists with a, firs of all, a certain a
higher degree of unhappiness which may be rooted in
economic factors, may be rooted in sort of, you know,
sort of the digital age and the anxieties it produces
and one of the reasons they’re so well-behaved is that you can
socialize online and so you’re, you know, you’re less
likely to take the car out and get drunk with your friends. You’re less, you know,
there’s less teen sex because perhaps there’s more
sexting that sounds like a joke, but it’s actually
probably statistically not and so you have this
question one, you know, is the greater safety worth
perhaps the cost in happiness and two, this connects
to the economic as well, are millennials just sort
of delayed in you know, I mean the basics of, you
know, the American dream when you were a kid, you know,
you get married, you have kids, you own a home, you know, you
own a car, you own a couple of cars, if those sort
of visceral aspects of the American dream
circa 1957, millennials are getting
married at lower rates, they are buying homes at
lower rates, they are driving at lower rates, all of
these things that sort of culturally we
associate with sort of America normalcy
aren’t happening in, to the same degree. And so, the question hanging
over the next 20 years will be, are millennials going to
do all the same things that E.J’s generation did
just 10 or 15 years later? Or is there are real shift? Not in human nature, but
in human nature’s response to the economy, technology and
everything else that’s going to mean across the lifecycle
millennials are less likely to have kids, more likely to
be single, more likely to live in apartments that
suburban houses and so on? And that’s, again, something we
won’t know for 15 years or so.>>E.J. Dionne: Could I just
say one quick thing on that? The other thing about millennials that’s
fascinating is they are a very progressive generation. They are probably the most
progressive generation since the new dealers of
the greatest generation. Now, some of that is
because they are a more diverse generation. That the, you know,
people who are say under 40 or under 35 are much, a much larger percentage
African-American, Latino, Asian, but even among White millennials
they are significantly more liberal than other cohorts of
Whites and I, I tell my children that you know when you are,
when my generation is gone and your generation takes over, this will probably be a
more progressive country. The only problem with
that is I want to be around to see the country when
you guys take over, so I’m going to have to figure out
a way to solve that.>>Ross Douthat:
Silicon Valley is working on life [multiple speakers].>>E.J. Dionne: But I do think
that they’re more tolerant, they’re more, they are open. I mean, there are some very
interesting characteristics about them that make them
a potential political, that may be harbingers
of political change when they start voting in force.>>Ann Compton: One of the
beautiful parts [inaudible] of this program every year
is because we are linked up to students in Hawaii and
they have offered the two of you some really
interesting questions. The first question we’re
going to hear is from Shannon.>>Hi. I am Shannon [inaudible]. I’m a communications student
at UH Manoa and my idea of the American dream is a place
where people can live happy and safely in a community
with friends and family. My question is, what do you
think our generation can do to make sure that we live
happy and healthier today?>>E.J. Dionne: Oh, preach Ross. Go ahead.>>Ross Douthat: I mean,
my, my nonpartisan answer as you can probably tell from
things that I’ve already said, is that you should spend
less time on the internet. That’s, you know,
without getting into sort of whether you should convert
to Catholicism or which kind of Catholic you should
be, I mean, that’s you know that’s
obviously important, you know, and in a nonsectarian way,
I would say there is a lot of evidence, it’s not just
positive, but there’s a lot of reasonable evidence that social life online is
potentially more likely to lead to depression, unhappiness,
isolation, and less likely to lead to healthy friendships,
healthy relationships, healthy marriages, and so on. And, of course, you
are, you know, as I am still young
enough hopefully to know this reasonably well,
of course, like you can’t sort of become a hermit and a
luddite and sort of opt out of you know the social world of young people is an online
social world, but figuring out who to have, you know, your
relationships and friendships as your connection to the
world at large mediated through old fashioned
reality rather than digital reality seems
like a really important step that either today’s
millennials or the generation after them is going to have
to figure out to get to the, to get to the point where
their relationship and all of our relationship to technology becomes
a healthy one. So, that’s yeah,
that’s a nonsectarian.>>Ann Compton: Great. Let’s take it.>>E.J. Dionne: I mean,
I think I actually agree with every single word you said. That, and I do think that
sort of, I’m not the, I love the technology. I have all kinds of, I spend
too much time on my phone like everyone else does. I can find out if the Red Sox
are actually winning or not, you know, instantly which is
very satisfying especially this season. The, you know, so I am
very much anti-luddite, but I do think that,
again, there is evidence that if you are involved
in politics, or service or a religious congregation, or
sports teams, or a whole series of other activities with other
people direct face-to-face, that that’s a helpful thing. The other virtue I have
sort of toyed with a lot, I thought about a lot, because
it’s really complicated, virtue is a virtual of loyalty. And I worry a lot
about, on the one hand, loyalty can be misplaced,
loyalty can demand you know the, I mean I think the SS had
loyalty in its, you know, its slogan which always reminds
me don’t put too much on that. On the other hand, I worry about a society that’s
lost the sense of loyalty. Maybe this is, you know, from
you know, I’m from Massachusetts where loyalties are so strong
that the most powerful, you know, it’s the old
joke about the version of Alzheimer’s you forget
everything except your grudges. You know, if somebody was on
the wrong team, but I do think that there is a; I worry
about the decline of loyalty in a society from employer
to employee, from employee to employer or our
loyalties to each other. It’s how do we strengthen
some of the bonds between us? How do we stick with each
other when things get tough? How can friendship be
demanding and not temporary, not just something you
pass through and, you know, geographic mobility makes
friendship more complicated than it used to be.>>Ann Compton: But
you can keep in touch with each other across the.>>E.J. Dionne: Well, right and
that’s one of the advantages.>>Ann Compton: With
much greater ease.>>E.J. Dionne: And that is where actually you
can be anti-luddite, because you know it
strikes me with my kids, my students that they maintain
their bonds in some ways.>>Ann Compton: Yes.>>E.J. Dionne: More
successfully than we did.>>Ann Compton: Yes.>>E.J. Dionne: That’s a
good thing, but I just, I sort of like people to try
to think about what is loyalty and what does it demand? Because that’s something we
talk about much in our society.>>Ann Compton: Oh,
you’re right. We’ve got two more
questions coming up. The next one is from a
student in Hawaii, Jordan.>>Aloha. My name is
Jordan [inaudible]. I’m a recent graduate of the
University of Hawaii at Manoa. My idea of the American
dream is freedom. My question for you is, what
does freedom mean to you?>>Ann Compton: E.J. what
does freedom mean to you? That’s just a small.>>E.J. Dionne: This is like a
college interview in reverse.>>Ann Compton: And we’ll keep
this short because we want to get to several
more questions.>>E.J. Dionne: You
know, I think freedom is about having the capacity
to effect the decisions that are made that affect you. Which means that freedom
is partly a social matter and it’s why I am a passionate
small “d” democrat and think that institutions should be
democratized where they can be and then I think, you know, and then I think the First
Amendment, the freedom is sort of described in the First
Amendment are a reasonable list of what it means to be
free, but I will stop there, because I should stop
and let Ross answer, but these are a kind of
set of liberal freedoms and I also think there’s
probably another side of freedom that I’m going to let Ross
describe that may have to do with the freedom, how freedom
relates to responsibility and.>>Ann Compton: Ross.>>Ross Douthat:
What that, you can’t, you can’t setup my answer
like that [laughter].>>E.J. Dionne: Why? I had to.>>Ross Douthat: I
have not the freedom to answer the question
my own way.>>E.J. Dionne: I want to control the conditions
on this stage.>>Ross Douthat: So, yeah. I mean, I will I guess
I’ll try and wrap in what E.J. was referring to. I think the; where the
American dream is concerned, I associate freedom and I
guess I’ll sound, again, a little bit lit like a
radical, but the freedom in America is not to be
a prisoner of a boss. You have a boss, people have
bosses that’s you know that’s part of life, but I
always come back to a movie that may be now is too old
for millennials to have seen, but “It’s a Wonderful Life” the
Jimmy Stewart movie from 1941 where he plays George Bailey
from Bedford Falls, New York. And the whole idea in, behind
George Bailey is, you know, he’s a businessman, he
runs a Building and Loan and he’s trying to get
people into their own homes, and there’s old man Potter right
who’s like you know the sort of plutocrat of the town who
just wants people to rent from him in his slums. And, you know, the
dream of homeownership, the idea of owning your own
home comes from this idea of being having a kind
of rooted independence where you are not a
prisoner of, in his case, a landlord in the case
of you know being stuck in a job you don’t like, a boss
and so on, and that’s, again, in the American context
I think that is sort of, that’s the heart of
economic freedom. It’s the freedom to sort
of make your own choices for your own family have the
resources whether it’s the money, the car to
drive, and you know, light up for the territories
all of these sort of icons of American life are
connected to that, that version of freedom. And then, to make the
conservative point, you know, the question, the argument
that most American thinkers in the founding era
and down to the 1950s or 1960s would have
made is that, you know, freedom is not the
same thing as license. And freedom is confirmed
in responsibility. You want to be free to be, you
know, free to be a moral person, to be a good person, to be
bound by sort of community rules and ideas and aspirations
and that freedom disappears if it’s just treated as a
freedom to do whatever you want and that’s the kind of society
that ultimately succumbs to tyranny, maximal freedom
ultimately leads people to want to submit themselves
to some authoritarian.>>E.J. Dionne: I,
“every time a bell rings and angle gets his wings”, and I
just loves what Ross just said. I once wrote a column on “It’s
a Wonderful Life” as kind of embodying the new deal ethic,
and I think what’s intriguing is in that movie is that moment when George discovers what the
world would be like without him and Bedford Falls
becomes Pottersville. And what’s so interesting
is that because of a lack of economic autonomy and
well-distributed property, Bedford Falls becomes
an immoral town. It becomes a gambling, gambling,
prostitution, and to me one of the things I love about that
movie is how it links the need for economic justice to the
creation of personal virtue and anyway, so my
wife we have hanging and “It’s a Wonderful
Life” poster that my wife gave
me one Christmas because I love that movie.>>Ross Douthat: But it
is an economic freedom. It’s an, I’m sorry, an economic
opportunity that is rooted in ownership rather
than dependence which is this sort of it.>>E.J. Dionne: But a
particular kind of capitalism.>>Ross Douthat: Right. Yes.>>E.J. Dionne: But
a social capitalism, a Christian democratized or a
social democratized capitalism.>>Ross Douthat: Right.>>Ann Compton: One
more question coming from Nichole in Hawaii. Aloha.>>Aloha. My name is
Nichole Tam and I’m a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa studying
journalism and Chinese. I moved here 10 years ago
from Hong Kong with my family. Our vision of the American dream
is good access to education, as well as, the freedom
to express speech and express the ways that
we can practice journalism. My question to you is, do you
think we’ll have the same access to the freedom of speech in journalism the way we have
today despite immigration policies that’s in
place right now?>>Ann Compton: Immigration
policies in place right now and whether the future
of freedom of the press will be there?>>E.J. Dionne: Well, I’m I
mean I sort of have two thoughts on this that are
kind of intension; one is I am genuinely
alarmed as, I think Ross is, by the current administration,
it’s attitudes toward the media. It’s, you know, it’s constant
attacks, the media as the enemy of the people that term the
president uses is a term that Khrushchev of all
people banned in Russia because it had sort of memories
of solecism and, you know, I do worry about obviously
what’s happened to the kids in of parents who are
trying to cross the border. I’m not sure I fully get the
link between the two except that I, and that we’ve gone
through periods of, you know, restrictionism in immigration
and more open borders and we’ve kind of gotten
through those periods and I tend to think Americans are
ultimately pragmatic on this question and they open,
they open up the borders again when they sort of feel that it’s
in the interest of the country. But I do worry about a
general attitude that’s coming from the government that
is authoritarian and sort of a strong man if you
will view of the world that is very disconcerting. Having said all that,
I think that we’re one of the great things about the
U.S. is that we are really good at correcting our mistakes,
you know, that Churchill line that everybody loves, “Americans
always do the right thing after first exhausting all
of the other possibilities.” And we’re doing one
hell of a job of exhausting all the
other possibilities.>>Ann Compton: Let me get Ross
in here and then we’re going to open up with microphones
in the aisles for you.>>Ross Douthat: Yeah,
I mean it’s a weird; the freedom of the press
issue is a weird one, because on the one hand
it is extremely unusual to have the President of
the United States, you know, tweeting attacks on “Fake News” and you know institutions
including my employer and so on. At the same time,
the actual view from inside the New York
Times and I think probably from inside the Jeff Bezos
own Washington Post as well, is that in practical
terms you know this is, this is the Trump era has
been better for journalism, maybe worse for everybody
else, but better for journalism than you know the 5
or 10 years before it. I mean, you know, the big
threat to the press in America over the last 10 to 15 years
not to bring everything back to the evils of the internet, but has been the
internet’s effect on the media’s business
model and the fascination and obsession with Trump and
the Trump Administration and so on has you know been a kind
of economic boom in many ways to the press, and
at the same time, whatever Trump himself may want
to do, his administration is not at all in a position to I
think clamp down effectively on the media in the
way that, you know, you see in genuinely
authoritarian countries. So, I’m of two minds. You know, it’s obviously
a bad thing that you know to have a president sort of
delegitimatizing the media. At the same time, there is a
kind of weird cabooky theater to the whole thing where,
you know, it’s Trump, Trump attacks the New York Times and the New York Times
subscriptions soar and the next day Trump
is on the phone to one of my colleagues you know
talking, talking to them because you know he does that
all the time and so it’s sort of hard to get an overall
read on the situation.>>E.J. Dionne: Could
I just quickly?>>Ann Compton: Real quick.>>E.J. Dionne: Um>>Ross Douthat: I didn’t say
anything about immigration, but.>>E.J. Dionne: Yeah, no I think
that Trump has the interest in Trump the worry about Trump
has been very good to a certain for a certain number of
national elite organizations that basically like the Post
and the Times and others who are in a position to have
a national audience. I still worry very much about
what’s happening in journalism at the local level where
the economic model.>>Ross Douthat: Right.>>E.J. Dionne: Where you still
have great reporters trying to do everything they
can, but the number of people covering state and
local government the number and these papers don’t
have the capacity to build big national audiences.>>Ann Compton: And that is
not in the last two years. That has.>>E.J. Dionne: That’s a
long, that’s a long problem.>>Ann Compton: We have, it is
your turn now and we will try to make our answers short to get in as many questions
as possible. Please raise your hand and we’ll
have a microphone come to you. There’s one right in
the center here about.>>E.J. Dionne: Vital center you
couldn’t be more in the middle.>>Ann Compton: Yes. Yes, here’s a microphone
coming to you from your left. That’s just the geographic left.>>Is it working, yeah?>>Ann Compton: Hello. Thank you.>>Is it working?>>E.J. Dionne: We hear you.>>Ross Douthat:
We can hear you.>>Okay, great. I’m Katharine Donato. I’m a professor at Georgetown
School of Foreign Service. I’m going to push you guys, both
of you on the immigration issue because on the one hand a lot of what you said is really
interesting, fascinating, I agree on many points,
but I find your description of the millennials and the
young people a little bit weak, in part because as one
of you said or both of you may have said,
this is a much, this upcoming generation
not just the millennials but the post-millennials
are more diverse and certainly more
foreign-born but children of foreign-born especially,
so I really would like to hear a bit more
about the American dream, freedom and immigration.>>Ann Compton: Okay, run
back through a point or two and do we have another
microphone out there and another person, great.>>Ross Douthat: Well,
I mean, so I’ll try and make two quick points. The first is to try and
connect this all the way back to the very first question. Which is that one
of the questions for American going forward
is does the society, does society end up in this
dynamic that you do see more in California than in
other parts of the country where you have a
combination of ethic and generational stratification? And this is part of what drives
the Trump phenomenon and support for Trump on the
right, but it exists in extremely liberal states
as well where the combination of declining birth rates
and largescale immigration over the last 30 years have
created exactly the phenomenon you described. You have a younger generation
that is much more diverse, much more likely to include
ethnic minorities and so on than was the case
40 or 50 years ago, coexisting with an older
generation that is sort of richer and whiter
and obviously older, and that is at the moment, a
source of it’s a big source of our political tension that
you have sort of these three, you know, you talk about
sort of, we talked a lot about class stratification,
we talk a lot about racial stratification,
having that kind of sort of ethnic divide between the
generations tends I think to exacerbate class, you know, when you have generational
divisions sort of mirroring class and racial
divisions it exacerbates polarization and
tension and so on. And so, a huge challenge for
America going forward is, you know, it’s we haven’t
dived that deep into policy, but it is to figure out how
to take sort of take a sort of a younger working class
that’s increasingly racially diverse and sort of advance
their socioeconomic interests in a period where there is
this sort of generational, intergenerational
alienation driven in part by race and immigration. That’s just sort of a
macro level analysis, I’m not providing any solutions. The second briefer
point I’d make is just to echo something E.J. said
which is that when thinking about the immigration tensions
we’re having now you do have to recognize that there has been
this ebb and flow of immigration across American history and the
period that we have been talking about as a kind of sort
of a model of what a kind of middle-class American
dream hero would look like was a period of
extremely low immigration that had been effectively
cutoff by the, you know, not just somewhat racist
immigration rules in the 1920s. And, so again, one
of the you know, I’ve been what I
would describe as sort of a moderate immigration
restrictionist over the last 10 years,
and what, you know, one of the arguments I’ve
made is that you’ve ended up getting the kind of
extremities of Trump in part because you had this very large
wave of immigration that sort of brought America’s
foreign-born population up to levels we haven’t
had in a 100 years and neither political parties
took that seriously sort of people who, you know, who felt that it was
happening too fast, and if you can’t take those
concerns seriously you end up in empowering more
demagogic alternatives. I think the optimistic
cases that, you know, you actually have
like if you look at illegal immigration is
actually down over the last 10 or 15 years and in
part sort of some of the Trump phenomenon
is a reaction to a trend that has already crested, it’s
sort of a delayed reaction to much larger scale immigration
especially illegal immigration in the early 2000s and as sort of the culture internalizes
the fact that, you know, the great wave of
Mexican immigration to the U.S. is probably over,
you will have a lowering of tensions around that
issue that will lead to better policies
and fewer disasters like the child separation
policy, but anyway.>>Ann Compton: I’m going to do
one more quick question up here.>>Ross Douthat: Sorry. That was.>>E.J. Dionne: I’m
going to sneak an answer to your question
into the next one.>>Ann Compton: That’s good.>>E.J. Dionne: I’ve
been asked to move on.>>Ann Compton: Hello. Yes.>>Yeah, So, going
off of that theme of increasing factionalization,
you alluded earlier to the idea of other increasing segregation
among other lines particularly among educational lines
especially thinking of about the recent election and how the political divide is
less so, but to in red states and blue states more
between blue cites and the red rural
areas, I’m wondering if given the centrality
of that idea to the American dream
the idea of a society where the civic nationalism
is based in interaction between people of different
educational demographic immigration and other
backgrounds what policies specifically do you think
could be undertaken to minimize that segregation
and particularly to have more integration
among educational and other demographic lines?>>Ann Compton: E.J.>>E.J. Dionne: That, that is a
question that I think is central to the future and that I don’t
think we have good policy answers to yet, because we
clearly have a situation in the country where certain
regions are people magnets, job magnets, investment magnets. It’s a figure of something like
85% of the venture capital goes to three states and this
is not as you pointed out correctly simply
red states/blue states if you compare Downstate
Illinois to Metro Chicago Upstate New
York to Metro New York City or in my state, you know, the
mill towns like the one I grew up in or Lawrence or
Fitchburg versus Greater Boston and you saw this, you saw
this economic disparity by region reflected
in voting patterns. This is a huge problem
and economists tend not to like regionally-based
economic proposals to try to lift up one region, because
they see it as inefficient. I’ve heard our economist
argue what you tend to do is to benefit already privileged
people in those areas and that the benefits
don’t spread, but I there are ways
of pursuing. I think we do need to pursue
policies that are place-based and ironically place-based
policies would help two very different kinds of people on
opposite sides of the divide; on the one side, inner
cities who have been hammered by the industrialization and
on the other hand, smaller and smaller towns and more
rural areas and factory towns that have been hollowed out like
mine, and I think we just have to find ways of doing that and I
also think we have to find ways of making so-called
bad jobs better. There was nothing that said
that working in a steel mill or an auto mill was a good
job, except unions came along and people got paid a good
wage, began to develop benefits and we got to figure out how
to do that again for jobs, for jobs in the service sector.>>Ross Douthat: The best thing that the Trump Administration
has done in this regard is to tax Harvard [brief laughter]
and I’m not really kidding. I think that there is,
there’s a case for.>>E.J. Dionne: Boy,
he’s bitter.>>Ross Douthat: Kind
of left; I’m bitter? I’ve done very well
with my Harvard degree. Eugene here I am
on stage with you. The, I think there is,
there’s room for a kind of, for a kind of experimentation
that, again, could cross left-right lines. I think there’s a better version
of Donald Trump that, you know, when Amazon announced that it
was going to go on the hunt for a new corporate
headquarters, that better version of Trump
would instead of ranting against Bezos on Twitter,
would have gotten on the phone with Bezos and said, “Look, I’m the President of
the United States. I’ve got a lot of power. I want to you know use my
soft power to prevail upon you to consider going
to St. Louis rather than greater Washington, D.C.” And, you know, as E.J. says,
that’s the kind of thing that economists hate
and it obviously sort of smacks a little bit
of authoritarianism and you could imagine it going
in disastrous directions, but I’m open to the
idea that there are ways that the Federal
Government can sort of use soft persuasive
power around sort of corporate leadership
and also, you know, tweak and change tax
policies and do a bunch of different things that could
treat some of these glomerations of social and economic
capital as sort of monopolies onto themselves. The corridor is a kind of
monopoly in its own right and if the Federal
Government suddenly announced that it was going to
move a bunch of agencies out to other parts
of the country, that would be a small way of
sort of starting to breakup that kind of cluster and I don’t
think it would be a bad thing.>>Ann Compton: Mrs. Airway. We’re going to close with one
last question from Hawaii. The question comes from
a student named Harrison.>>Hi. My name is Harrison
Betino [assumed spelling] and I’m a journalism student at the University
of Hawaii at Manoa. My version of the American
dream is doing what you love and being able to provide
for those who love you. My question is; if we do what
we love, but we can’t provide for those who love
us, than how do we as a society move towards a
place where that can happen?>>E.J. Dionne: That man
should be a columnist either that or a preacher. That was a beautiful thing.>>Ann Compton: It is and that’s
why we want to end with it. So, each of you use this as kind of your closing argument
for tonight.>>Ross Douthat: I mean, I’ll
seek common ground and say that the public policies we
should seek should be policies that seek a little more economic
equality that we have right now, but that seek it through by
targeting precisely the areas that the questioner
is talking about. Basically saying, we’re going
to provide a little more support for work and a little
more support for family, and we’re going to reorient the
welfare state so that, you know, you have a little more money
when you’re raising kids, you have a larger earned income
tax credit or something like it. If you’re working a blue collar
job and it gets you to a place that conservatives could support
because you’re effectively, you know, like the
GI Bill you’re sort of subsidizing hard work
and childrearing than most, you know, the most conservative
things of all, but at this, but you’re doing it in a way that does you know push the
society towards a slightly more egalitarian income distribution,
because I think that, that is the core question. You should be able
to if you work hard, you should be able to, you
know, get married, buy a house and have a family and not
everybody wants to do that, but lots of people do and
when America was working at its best lots of
people were able to do that and I think that’s
a worthwhile goal for policymakers today as well.>>Ann Compton: E.J.>>E.J. Dionne: The
idea of getting to do what you love is
one of the, in a way one of the great privileges of life
because there are so many people who are essential to our lives
who are not necessary doing work that they love, but work
that they have to do. And so, I think the
question is, you know, in the first instance
what are the ways of increasing the chances
that people will get to do what they love and
that probably has to do with both access to
education on the one side, but also I think a whole lot
more respect than we show in our society to work that
does not necessarily require a college degree, but
reflects commitment, reflects craftsmanship. I think that one of the
if you compare our economy and our social attitudes
to the Germans I think one of the things my friend Ed Luce of the Financial Times has
written quite eloquently about this that that society has
come to respect the work done by those who do not
automatically fall into some meritocratic elite
and has rewarded it accordingly. And the I’m heartened
to hear Ross for his egalitarian
approach and it pains me that there are not very many
conservatives these days who are willing to embrace
that kind of egalitarianism, in a way I think more
conservatives did. We look back and think
of Robert Taft as deeply, deeply conservative and
yet he was in that era of shared commitment created by the New Deal and
by World War II. He was willing to say that
the market all by itself, the wardens of the market all by itself will not guarantee
the good life for people. And I’d like to see us
have a different kind of political debate
where a conservative like Ross might correct
me in my hope or perhaps I have too much
hope in X government program, perhaps I’d be more willing
to tax people than he would, but yet we would share
a commitment to the idea that you can’t make the,
create the American dream without individual effort,
but you can’t create a society in which the American
dream is possible without some collective
action, some collective effort and a real commitment
to each other and not just to ourselves alone.>>Ross Douthat: But the
irony it should be said since we have both been
in different ways critical of the President of the
United States tonight, the irony of the Trump era is
that one of the many reasons that Donald Trump was elected
president was his particular sort of bludgeoning and demagogic way he did
provide that kind of vision. It was, you know, there isn’t
actually necessarily policy to back it up, but the Donald
Trump Republican vision was closer to what you’re
describing than the Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney vision
4 years before. That’s, I think that’s
something that the populism of Trump is a sort of
crude grasp at that center that you’re talking about.>>E.J. Dionne: Well, what I would argue back is
what’s particularly insidious about what Trump did is
that it carried that promise with policies that are actually
antithetical to that promise. I always felt, for example,
that when you know progressives and even moderates say to a
lot of folks who find at age 50 that they are not in a job that
provides them with the income that they used to have
to support their families and live a decent life, and
the typical policy person who happens to be a college
educated comes along and says, “Would you need more
training and education?” And there’s truth to that, but I think that person has
every right to think what that person is telling us is
we got to be more like them and it comes off as, as
condescending and not in any way genuinely empathic. When Trump said, “I’m going to bring back those factory
jobs and those coal jobs.” Of course he wasn’t
going to do that. I have a strong suspicion that
many of the people who heard that and shared know that’s
not true, but they had a sense from that that he understood
the way they felt better than the person who kept talking
about training and education, so I during the campaign, one of the best nicest
moments I had is I suggested that the hat I wanted
to wear would say, “Make America Empathetic Again.” And a very nice person in
the audience came up to me and said, “I love that. You’re going to hear from me.” And I got this hat
and I got in my mail and it was perfect
grappling of the Trump hat, but it said “Make
America Empathetic Again.” And my son said “That’s awesome
dad but you can’t wear it because he did too good a job
and it looks like a Trump hat.” But I do think that
we are, you know, if our country dies it will be because of our absolute
inability to understand the suffering and
the pain of people unlike us, and that the worse kind
of politics is a politics that holds one group’s pain
against another group’s pain and that’s what we have
to find a remedy for.>>Ann Compton: The conversation
tonight proves that the concept of the American dream
is this conversation that is never ending, tonight
true to the Kluge moto, “We’ve given you
a lot of thought, a lot of call to action.” Please thank Ross
Douthat and E.J. Dionne for tonight’s presentation. Thank you.>>E.J. Dionne: Thank you.>>Ross Douthat: Thank you.>>E.J. Dionne: Thank you sir.>>Ross Douthat: Thank you sir.>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc,gov.

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