Keeping track of this year’s dramatic presidential campaign trail may seem alarmingly difficult at times. To help prepare and inform young voters in the University of Miami community, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George F. Will was invited to speak personally with them on campus at the BankUnited Center Wedensday evening.
Will was invited to UM as the 2008 New Student Convocation speaker as well as the first renowned guest to speak to students as part of A Dialogue for Democracy, the university’s innovative political series which will take place throughout the fall.
Will presented his lecture, “The Political Argument Today,” which explained in depth his views on the political environment in America, including the tendency of conservatives to favor freedom and less government control while liberals are more concerned with equality.
The issue college students should be most concerned about is “the fact that we have a welfare state,” he posited.
“It exists to transfer wealth from the working young to the retired elderly, and if it is not reformed it’s going to transfer way too much of the wealth through the earnings of young people to the elderly, many of whom do not need it,” Will told The Miami Hurricane during a press conference before his presentation began. “The weight of the welfare state will have such a suffocating effect on our economy – it must throw off the revenues to pay the bills.”
After praising President Donna E. Shalala along with the university itself, Will told The Miami Hurricane that his 16-year-old son may be interested in attending UM for college.
“[Ralph Waldo] Emerson said, ‘any institution is the lengthening shadow of a person,’ and if the University of Miami is a lengthening shadow of your not-very-long President [Shalala], then it’s the kind of place I’d want my son to look at,” he said.
On the presidential election itself, Will predicted that Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama will “pile up enormous popular vote majorities” while Republican candidate Senator John McCain could win the electoral vote. Will suggested the Democrats may lose states in the South “more narrowly than they have done in the last five or six elections” because of many African Americans in the South who will vote for Obama.
Although Will said that “if you had to bet your house” on who will win the election, he’d bet on Senator Obama, he believes that Obama is “radically under-performing his party.”
Regardless of the election’s outcome, Will encouraged students to “pay attention” to the race.
“It doesn’t get any better than this and it may not be this good again for a long time – good in the sense of sheer theater,” Will said. “Four talented candidates, serious differences, civil argument. It’s what democracy ought to look like.”
As part of A Dialogue for Democracy, UM will feature a lineup of political strategists, pollsters, news correspondents, scholars and government leaders throughout the political season.
MTV News reporter Gideon Yago, pollster John Zogby, political scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, as well as political strategist James Carville and Mary Matalin, former assistant to President Bush, are among those to visit the university in the upcoming months.
To learn more about A Dialogue for Democracy, visit www.miami.edu/decision08.