“There is a new generation in America,” said former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean in his President’s Forum Lecture. “There is a shared thoughtfulness about how to make the world a better place that exists in the younger generation from one side of the political spectrum to the other.”
In his talk, “Obama, the President of the New Generation,” Dean highlighted the polling, research and outreach that went into the 2008 campaign, using his experience as former chair of the Democratic National Committee. Before a packed Smith Opera House audience, he discussed his impressions of young people, particularly young voters, their voting tendencies and how Democratic voter recruitment strategies were calibrated to address those tendencies during the Obama campaign.
“The issues matter, but people vote their values,” said Dean, drawing on his experience as a former presidential candidate. “They will vote for someone they like before someone who agrees with everything they say. It’s called conviction politics.”
But, Dean warned, “You can’t win by standing up for things you don’t believe in.”
Citing Vietnam, the Civil Rights era and the cultural revolution of the time, Dean said his “generation is a confrontational generation. We did change the country but we were very confrontational-and are confrontational.”
Speaking to the students in the audience, he said, “Your generation says, ‘Quit griping about what you disagree on and fix what you can.'”
Noting his use of the “50 State Strategy,” the Internet and the historic gains in 2006 and 2008 for the Democratic party, Dean discussed the diverse demographics of the youngest generation of voters and how that diversity informs their outlook and feelings about politics, issues and democracy.
“This is a generation who sees themselves as part of a generation across the world,” he said. “And my charge to you is, don’t stop now. Democracy can collapse and disappear. It’s a human creation and like all human creations it has to be maintained or it will fall apart. You cannot drop out of politics. Politics is community activism, being on the school board, being on the library board, building housing for your local church or mosque or synagogue. Yes, politics is running for Congress and writing checks. But it’s also community involvement, organizing to get something done for the community or the state or the world. Don’t stop now.”
Before the lecture, Dean had lunch with HWS student
leaders, attended Associate Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn’s course “American Foreign Policy,” stopped in on Professor Linda Robertson’s media and society class, gave the keynote address at the New England Deans Meeting, met with 2014 Trustees Scholars and their families and had dinner with HWS community members at President Mark D. Gearan’s house.
“We certainly kept him busy and we are grateful both for his time and his thoughtful reflections on the new face of politics,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “Speakers like Governor Dean can and do change the dialogue on campus and in the greater Geneva community.”
“At lunch, we talked a lot about the new health care bill,” says Hobart Student Trustee Dan De Nose ’10. “He had a busy schedule but the fact that he still took the time and sat down for lunch with students showed a lot about his character.”
Abigail Kent’12 also enjoyed Dean’s visit. “I liked how Governor Dean approached political engagement, specifically the idea of follow through — that even after the election is over you have to stay involved and not fall out of touch.”
The President’s Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty, staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members.
Like Dean, Forum guests generally take the opportunity to visit classes or gather with students and faculty members to discuss issues, many one-on-one.
On Wednesday, April 7, 21-year-old writer Kevin Roose will join the President’s Forum Series with a lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room in the Warren Hunting Smith Library.
During his sophomore year at Brown University, Roose met a group of students from Liberty University, the late Reverend Jerry Falwell’s “Bible Boot Camp” for young evangelicals. Inspired by that meeting, he decided to leave Brown and spend a semester “abroad” at Liberty, learning about his conservative Christian peers by living among them. He chronicled his experiences in “THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University,” which was published in March 2009.
For more information, visit Roose’s Web site.