During his farewell address in Chicago, President Obama drew attention to a particularly contentious issue in American society today and one that relates to college campuses across the country: the diversity of political and intellectual thought.
In Tuesday’s speech, Obama attempted to solidify his legacy with Americans who once voted for his brand of progressive politics. He took credit for America’s recovery from the Great Recession, rebooting the U.S. auto industry, normalizing relations with Cuba, shutting down Iran’s nuclear program, achieving marriage equality, killing Osama Bin Laden and creating affordable healthcare.
Yet, while all of these policies may define the Obama’s legacy, what President Obama said about our future is far more important than what he said about his past.
In discussing the gridlock of American politics, Obama decried the “naked partisanship” that has hindered our national discourse.
What President Obama said about our future is far more important than what he said about his past.
“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.”
Obama continued, “Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.”
Following Trump’s election in November, countless political commentators have criticized the growing trend of “echo chamber” media and discourse that only serves to confirm political biases and beliefs.
Throughout his time in office, President Obama has consistently criticized the “coddled” culture of American college campuses. He has implored universities to abandon “safe-spaces” and urged students to engage in productive discourse.
“Without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.”
The president offers a valuable antidote to the broken political discourse of today’s college campuses. His message encourages students to engage vigorously and openly with those with whom they disagree without resorting to personal attacks. Here, at Georgetown, passionate students only enhance the political discourse of this university through their participation in debates and in political clubs and publications.
Most importantly, President Obama reminds us that political discourse must always be about more than scoring political points. For this community and the nation as a whole, the stakes are simply too high. As Obama put it in his final address, “We rise or fall as one.”