David Brooks wraps Old Gold weekend

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David Brooks, conversavite columnist for The New York Times 
spoke Saturday night as the first Ubben Lecturer of the 2014-2015
school year. LEAH WILLIAMS / THE DEPAUW

From the age of seven, New York Times columnist and author David Brooks knew he wanted to write. For the last 46 years he’s composed everything from movie reviews to novels on the unconscious mind.

Brooks cites a pivotal moment at which his dream career became a reality. After writing a piece for his college newspaper in which he bashed one of the nation’s most prominent journalists at the time, William F. Buckley, Brooks received a unique offer from him. 

Buckley offered Brooks a job in front of the student body during a speech at the University of Chicago. Although Brooks, at the time a student at the university, was not in the audience, he would contact Buckley three years later and begin working for him. 

“He [Buckley] was probably one of the two or three most famous journalists at the time,” Brooks said Saturday evening to an audience of students, faculty, and alumni at DePauw University’s first Ubben Lecture of the year in Kresge Auditorium. “He sent me on my way and I’ve just been writing ever since.”

Brooks’ evening lecture ended a busy Old Gold weekend in which DePauw kicked off a $300 million capital campaign.

He cited his books and columns, as well as new and original research during his 90-minute lecture. The focus, however, was less about his previous work; Brooks addressed the audience directly. 

“If you want to feel good about America, go visit a college campus,” Brooks said. He encouraged students to avoid getting caught up in “resume virtues” and encouraged them to develop their “eulogy virtues.” 

Brooks believes accomplished students are often rich in “resume virtues” which include high test scores, impressive internships, and professional connections, but fail to develop themselves as truthful, rational, and loving human beings.

“These are non-overlapping skills,” he said. “We would all agree that the eulogy virtues are more important than the resume virtues. Yet we live in a culture that pays a lot more attention to the resume virtues than the eulogy virtues.”

Brooks encouraged the audience to, “go back to the basics of who we are and what’s important, and how you become aware of your own weaknesses and how you actually build character.”

Brooks's speech resonated with the audience and left them thinking.

“I thought the topic was really beneficial for our generation to hear,” said first-year Lindsay Jones. “It served a good purpose for both the alumni and students that were there. I reflected on myself while I was sitting in the audience. I want to have a deeper perspective in my own life.”

“I feel like [David Brooks] brought up an important perspective that some people, especially college students, don’t think about any more,” said sophomore Claire Halffield. “Rather than focusing on material things focusing on values and living a life of happiness.”

Crediting his work’s inspiration to “sheer desperation,” Brooks believes reading and researching is an important aspect to his work, where he often combines theology and politics.

“I think all creativity is taking one idea from this world, and one idea from that world and jamming them together,” Brooks said. “Picasso’s paintings were a combination of western art and African masks. He just took two concepts and jammed them together, and then you get Picasso. That’s what I try to do.”

During a question and answer session, which followed his speech, Brooks fielded questions about partisanship and politics.

“The center has nothing, it’s just a void,” Brooks said. He believes the center, the area between the Republicans and Democrats, is the answer to the partisan divide in Washington. “There was a centrist tradition. It started with Alexander Hamilton. But, to me if you actually had a third tradition using limited government to give people the chance to have social mobility you would break the polarization because there would be a third movement.”

DePauw will welcome “Orange is the New Black” author, Piper Kerman, on February 4, 2015 for the semester’s second Ubben Lecture. Executive director of media relations, Ken Owen, also plans to announce a third Ubben Lecture by the end of this week.