Political analyst talks meaning of life at Tate Lecture

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(Courtesy of SMU)

David Brooks warmed up the audience on a very chilled evening with jokes about shopping centers and suburbs at Tuesday night’s Tate Lecture. Brooks knocked his home state of New York and poked fun at American staples.

“It’s like Wal-Mart on acid,” he said of Costco.

But the political and social analyst, New York Times columnist and PBS and NPR icon soon made a serious change in tone. For an hour, he filled McFarlin Auditorium with commentary on how to lead a meaningful life.

He talked extensively about the conflict between resume virtues and eulogy virtues, and the traits necessary to build character. Resume virtues are those we would list as skills for success, whereas eulogy virtues are those like integrity or bravery.

“I think we all know that eulogy virtues are more important than resume virtues,” he said.

But those character virtues can be difficult to focus on because our culture values personal success so much.

“It’s important to step back,” he said.

You will not be content with just personal success and accolades, he argued.

“Your inner self will not be the self you wanted it to be.”

He commented on how driven students like those he teaches at Yale University have all done amazing things but are “hungry” for something deeper.

That deeper something, he contends, is character, which can be built by love, suffering, self-defeat, service to an organization and wisdom.

“We plan for happiness but are formed by suffering,” he said.

Suffering, as does love, humbles you and then lifts you up, he said.

“It’s like being invaded by an army, and you welcome the invasion,” he said of falling in deep love.

These experiences allow you to form inner cohesion and sense of self.

Throughout his talk, Brooks referenced historical events and anecdotes about well-known political figures. But the columnist, known for his political analysis, did not offer his take on current events whatsoever during his talk; he focused on his message of how to lead a fulfilled life.

Junior Jennifer Zotz found this to be refreshing.

“I think Brooks gave an unanticipated but beautiful reminder of the importance of character on a campus who’s culture so often puts too much emphasis on material success,” Zotz said.

Senior Kelly Zitka was also surprised by Brooks’ message.

“That was not at al what I expected, and I loved it,” said Zitka.

Greg Lang, an SMU sophomore and Tate Lecture regular, found this one to be among his favorites in the past two seasons.

“The greatest take away is that while we’re here to learn, we’re also here to develop as people. There are more important things than personal success.” Lang said.

The next Tate Lecture on Dec. 2 will feature photographer Platon.

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