Dionne Jr. says country is moving toward 'communitarian ideals'

By Katie Havranek

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. spoke of the country’s bright future and the promise of today’s youth on Sept. 4 in Kagin Commons.”I’m jealous of you all,” Dionne said to the about 400 students in attendance. “Not only because you’re younger, or at a great university . but because very few of us get to reach maturity at a time this consequential.”

Dionne, this year’s featured convocation speaker, is also a frequent commentator on National Public Radio and the author and editor of numerous books including the New York Times best seller “Why Americans Hate Politics.”

Dionne drew parallels between the Reagan presidency and the Obama candidacy, joking that “neither side would be thrilled by the comparison.” In the 1980s, Dionne said, the United States switched to a conservative president not because of a change in ideals but because Americans wanted a new approach to the nation’s problems.

Dionne said the Iraq war, the struggling middle class, the growing inequality gap, healthcare and social security are the issues that Americans are looking to reform.

Dionne was ultimately optimistic and he spoke about America’s “great capacity to correct mistakes.” America is moving from radical individualism toward communitarian ideals, he said, and the college-aged generation is more extraordinary than any other before it.

Dionne spoke to the first-years in attendance, telling them, “you combine the idealism of the 1960s with the practicality of the 1980s.

“You want to do good, good that lasts. You have doubts about politics but are willing to give it a chance.”

“Do not believe that hope is na’ve,” he concluded, allusion to one of the central messages of the Obama campaign. “I lay a heavy burden on you, because I think you are a spectacular generation.”

Callie Thuma ’10 said the speech was dynamic and thought provoking.

“The only quibble I have,” she said, “is that he seems to think we’ve transcended racial divides more than I would think.

“Just because Obama is running for president doesn’t mean racism and segregation are over.