|George Will delivers
New Student Convocation address
Already well into the first semester of their fledgling collegiate careers, the University of Miami’s Class of 2012 filed into the school’s BankUnited Center for a lesson they’re not likely to forget: The 2008 presidential campaign is unlike any in the nation's history, so they should “pay attention to what is going on” because many of the political issues will affect their lives profoundly in the years to come.
That was one of the messages Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George F. Will delivered to UM’s freshman class on Wednesday, when he lectured to them as the 2008 New Student Convocation speaker.
Presented by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Will’s lecture, “The Political Argument Today,” launched A Dialogue for Democracy, a series of events hosted by UM focusing on key issues surrounding the presidential campaign.
In a lecture spiced with regular allusions to baseball, a sport for which he is passionate, Will addressed a gamut of political issues, analyzing Republican John McCain’s and Democrat Barack Obama’s chances at victory in key states, discussing the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate, and describing the nation as “a welfare state” that exists to transfer wealth from the working young to the retired elderly.
“Presidential politics is a lot like football,” Will said. “It’s simple in concept and complex in execution…Overnight is a long time in American politics. A week is forever, and we have 57 days to go [to election day].”
Syndicated in more than 400 newspapers nationwide, Will has the largest readership of any columnist today, reaching almost half of the newspaper readers in America. He writes a bimonthly back-page essay for Newsweek magazine and appears every Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos.
The last time Will spoke at UM’s BankUnited Center was in May 2005, when he marched across the stage to accept an honorary degree at a midday commencement ceremony for UM’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Wednesday evening, speaking inside the 7,000-seat venue that hosted the first presidential debate of 2004 and just last year was the site of two historic Spanish-language forums at which Democratic and Republican candidates addressed issues of importance to the Hispanic electorate, Will also gave students reason for hope, telling them that they “live in a world that’s fundamentally better than the world your parents and grandparents lived in. Fascism’s gone, communism’s gone, socialism’s gone. Al Qaeda’s a howl of rage against the modern world.”
He called UM’s 2008 freshman class triply blessed, saying that they will be at the institution for four straight victories over instate rival Florida State in football, congratulating them on being students at “one of the great research and teaching universities in the world,” and pointing out that they are blossoming intellectually just as the country is providing them with tremendous political drama.
“This is my ninth presidential cycle since I became a columnist, and this is immeasurably the most interesting,” he said.
He told students that “today, the great source of wealth is what you’re here for—education. You earn what you learn in the modern economy.”
After his lecture, Will answered questions from the student audience.
Before his address, Will fielded questions from a group of UM student journalists during a press briefing inside a BankUnited Center conference room, where he spun one reporter’s question on the Major League Baseball pennant races into an analogy on politics.
“Funny thing about baseball, the Cubs were the best team in the National League a month ago. They’re not now. It’s somewhat analogous to the campaign. There’s an old saying in politics you don’t want to peak too soon. The Cubs might have peaked too soon. But what’s important is how good you are in October, how good you are in politics on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Fifty-seven days is a long time in a pennant race. It’s forever in American politics. People should remember that one week before the 1980 election, Reagan and Carter were tied. A week later Reagan led by ten points. The country can make up its mind late but decisively.”
Earlier in the day, he had lunch with UM baseball coach Jim Morris and head football coach Randy Shannon, “two men who are at the very top of their professions,” Will said.
With less than two months before the nation’s electorate heads to the polls to cast their votes, UM has on tap a full slate of events designed to foster dialogue on pressing issues confronting the nation. To learn more, visit www.miami.edu/decision08.