President Donna E. Shalala got to pick the brain of one of America’s sharpest political commentators.
UM students and hundreds of other attendees gathered at the Fieldhouse last March for a conversation with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Maddow has hosted “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC since 2008, where she is revered as much for her quick wit as her roots in political activism.
Shalala asked questions about everything from the importance of studying humanities to the possibility of reinstituting the military draft.
Students lined up toward the end of the session to ask questions of their own.
Maddow – a Stanford graduate who also won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford – stressed philosophy, statistics and classics among her subjects of greatest value.
“To read philosophy, you need a mathematical, rigorous approach to understanding language,” Maddow said.
She is adamant that strong writing and the ability to present an argument are major assets in today’s world.
“We need to be investing in the humanities. It’s skills that we need as a country,” she said.
The event was hosted by Books & Books to promote “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power,” which spent five weeks atop the bestseller list when Maddow released the hardcover edition last year.
In her book, Maddow analyzes the changing nature of war, and how the U.S. has seemingly come to accept being in perpetual conflict.
On the subject of politics, Maddow lamented that political rhetoric between parties might not improve.
She suggested that the U.S. House, for example, is hindered during elections by the “crazy gerrymandered system where representatives only have to talk to the people on their side.”
Her book illustrates the need for change in the way Americans approach national security.
“We underestimate people’s passion for the issue,” she said. “People do care.”