There’s always been this strain, particularly in American politics, a skepticism about politicians. We’re in one of these periods where there is such skepticism, but it runs deeper.
I have known Hillary for almost thirty years. And I hope that when this conference takes place, she’s been elected president. We share common values, political values. But also I think that these are deeply rooted in our own personal experiences. And these values we’ve defended against all sorts of people who have used whatever means that they could, many of them underhanded, in order to try and destroy reputations, attack people personally, to engage in what we’ve called the politics of personal destruction, but for political advantage and gain.
I think that politics has always been susceptible to conversion so that it’s not actually about living people it’s about signaling membership within a particular community.
In America now, you can defend the humanities but only on economic grounds. So a theater improves a neighborhood. Or many people who study English become McKinsey consultants. But the fact is that you do it for itself, intrinsically, and you do it for the cultivation of the person and the cultivation of the citizen. Which should be reward enough.
I’m very diffident towards values, any kind of. Because you know, values can be very dangerous. And as the poem of Yeats says, the passionate intensity in believing in something can be very dangerous.