Harrison Hall in winter

Veritas Lecture

Spring 2016 Veritas Lecture: Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute Arthur Brooks

For the Vertias Lecture of Spring 2016, the Miami University Political Science Department welcomed renowned conservative writer Arthur C. Brooks for his lecture “The Conservative Heart” on April 6, 2016. A packed Taylor Auditorium tuned in to hear Brooks speak on the importance of kindness and integrity in a hostile political climate. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which is a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. He regularly contributes columns for The New York Times and was a business and government professor at Syracuse University. He is most notably the author of several bestsellers, including The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Happier, Fairer, and More Prosperous America that was published in 2015. Brooks began his lecture by discussing his political background – or lack thereof. He said he began his career as a college dropout born to a liberal Seattle family who was traveling the globe as a French Horn player. After becoming interested free enterprises, Brooks pursued an economics degree at Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey. It was here where he discovered his passion for social economics, bringing people out of poverty, and establishing empathy in politics. Brooks argued that one of the biggest issues American politics face is polarization. 

“Our national discussion is horrible today – it is founded upon political polarization,” he said.

“You shouldn’t see that kind of thing in a country that was built upon a dream.” Opposing political leaders are so at odds with each other, they refuse to listen to each other, setting a contemptuous example that is then adopted by their constituency. “

You rule out having civic discourage with someone when you begin to express contempt,” Brooks said. Contempt is different than anger, Brooks argued. Anger drives change, while contempt eradicates any chance for two sides to work together to achieve change.

“Anger resolves, contempt dissolves,” he added.

Drawing from personal experience, Brooks outlined what one should do instead of showing contempt – show kind-heartedness. He discussed the time when his first book was published, and he received an email from a reader who had sent him a lengthy email explaining that he had disliked Brooks’ book with specific details as to why.

“I could’ve yelled at him for hating my book,” Brooks said. “But instead, I was so flattered that someone had read my book, I thanked him for reading it and taking the time to write to me.”

That is the key to showing kind-heartedness, he said: Make friends with the people whom you disagree; Leave kind anonymous comments; And answer angry comments with love. “Your polarizing rhetoric is not meeting your objectives,” Brooks said. “It is time to show kind-heartedness.”