I attended this event yesterday featuring Cornel West and Anne-Marie Slaughter, among others. Of course, as the initial standing ovation indicates, like many campuses the tilt is overwhelmingly to the Left, so not a single conservative was invited to join the five panelists. One wonders how the conversation might have unfolded with even just one dissenting voice, but that might be too much to hope for on a college campus that extols "diversity."
Still, homogeneity has its benefits, one of which is a degree of frankness amid the assumption that there can't possibly be any alternative way of seeing things that one sometimes doesn't get in mixed presentations. I thought that Anne-Marie Slaughter's presentation - toward the middle of her remarks - were revealingly sober, particularly when she explicitly confirmed Joe Biden's admission that a young President Obama will be tested by foreign powers. Her surmise: the radical Islamic community will have to move rapidly to undercut any possible Muslim goodwill felt toward Barak Hussein Obama. She suggested that he will be put in a position in which he will have to kill Muslims in order to appear strong. The event or events that will provoke this inescapable response are worrisome, and may in fact be the first step in a quick appreciation of one generally overlooked aspect of George W. Bush's Presidency: in just under 8 years after 9/11/01, there was not another terrorist attack on American soil. Anne-Marie Slaughter suggested that a President Obama may invite just such an event - an acknowledgment that she admitted was not prudent for Biden to make during the campaign, but was in fact true. A palpable hush fell over the audience that suddenly seemed to realize that the world hadn't in fact been healed.
Cornel West declared the Age of Reagan to be over - especially its emphasis on individualism and neglect for the most vulnerable among us. I found myself agreeing with his criticisms of an economy that stressed short-term thinking and me-first individualism - but I found myself wondering if his observations would be true regarding an Obama era view of accidental or unwanted pregnancies. I guess it just depends on which vulnerable people get to be counted as people. I don't think, in any event, that the Age of Individualism is over, and nor could it be, unless we fundamentally reassess the priority given by both many of Left and Right alike upon the false but self-aggrandizing belief in human autonomy and the limitless ascent of the human will.