This year, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is inviting American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks to give its commencement address. CMC’s commencement will take place on Saturday, May 18.
Brooks, who announced that he was stepping down as AEI’s president last year, has been a pivotal proponent of free enterprise, writing New York Times bestseller The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise. Brooks has long been considered an expert within the GOP on poverty alleviation, favoring policies such as an expansion of the earned income tax credit.
AEI is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that is “committed to making the intellectual, moral, and practical case for expanding freedom, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening the free enterprise system in America and around the world.”
Before his time at the AEI, Brooks spent a decade in academia between Georgia State University and Syracuse University. During these years, Brooks taught public policy, economics, and social entrepreneurship. He completed his years in academia as a Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University in 2009. Prior to his career in economics and public policy, Brooks spent 12 years as a classical musician. A French hornist, he played with both the Annapolis and Barcelona orchestras for a combined total of nine years before teaching the instrument as a Professor of French Horn at Lynn University.
Recently, Brooks has devoted his time to studying the growing political divide in American society. In just two weeks, his new book Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt will be released.
Brooks argues civility, tolerance, and more agreement is not enough to end the culture of contempt in public discourse. Rather, the book claims that what we need “is love: not a warm and fuzzy feeling, but a clear and bracing commitment to the good of our fellow citizens — even, and especially, those with whom we disagree” (emphasis original). Brooks believes that rather than focus on trying to agree more with one another, we must instead try to disagree better. This concept is because, according to Brooks, a “vibrant competition of ideas is what helps us stay one step ahead of mediocrity and stagnation.” Brooks’ message of unity, improved political dialogue, and productive disagreement is in strong accord with Claremont McKenna’s new Open Academy initiative announced just last November. The initiative seeks to increase viewpoint diversity on campus in addition to equipping students “with the skills to engage in effective dialogue to resolve complex problems across divisions,” according to the Open Academy’s founding document.
Brooks joins an impressive list of commencement speakers at the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of higher education institutions including CMC, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont Graduate University, and Keck Graduate Institute.
Harvey Mudd has invited Stanford University professor and entrepreneur Sebastian Thrun—noted for his work in artificial intelligence, leadership of Google’s autonomous vehicle and Google Glass projects, and founding of Udacity, an online learning company dedicated to “democratizing education.” Scripps invited alumna Poppy MacDonald, former president of Politico, and Pomona alumna and former US diplomat Esther Brimmer will be Pomona’s commencement speaker.