Raising the Standard.

ON CAMPUS: Paul Begala

Paul Begala. (Photo courtesy Center for American Progress Action Fund)

On Thursday, Democratic political strategist and commentator Paul Begala visited UGA as a guest lecturer.  The lecture, which took place in the Chapel, garnered a crowd of both young and old and was officially titled “Politics: Why it’s too important to leave to politicians.”

Over the course of his 30-minute lecture, Begala gave a witty and anecdote-laced account of the current issues facing the American political system, which, for a professional partisan, was relatively fair to both parties. He critiqued the promises President Barack Obama made in 2008 — promises to lift politics out of the quagmire of parties and partisanship — and his abject failure to make good on those promises. On the other side of the aisle, he critiqued the GOP for its unwillingness to compromise and moderate.

Extremism on both sides, he said, has led to a case of Congressional paralysis worse than at any time in American history. According to Begala, it’s not that politicians hate each other more now than before — it’s that they’re unwilling to get anything positive done on behalf of the American people.  “Every difference of opinion,” he said, “isn’t a difference of principle that should shut down the government.” Looking forward, Bagala believes the GOP will moderate itself similar to how the Democratic Party changed its persona in the late 1980s.

The most powerful moment of the lecture occurred when Begala talked about his grandmother — a Hungarian immigrant who escaped communist oppression to become a maid in the United States.  After Bill Clinton was elected president, Begala was able to invite his grandmother to the White House and Oval Office for a tour.  Always confident, his grandmother marched into the Oval Office as though she owned place and proceeded to quiz the POTUS on the cleaning supplies he used on the fireplace poker, much to Clinton’s amusement.

On the way home, Begala remembers his grandmother shaking her head and muttering aloud, “Only in America. Only in America.” Only in America can a family, as Begala said, make greater strides in two generations than it had in the previous two centuries. Only in America can a boy born to Cuban immigrants become one of the most powerful political voices in the country.  And only in America, Bagala said, can the grandson of a Kenyan goat herder become president. Regardless of our party affiliation, this is worth celebrating, and I think everyone who attended Begala’s lecture left with a lingering feeling that America still has what it takes to deliver on its promise of opportunity.

—Davis Parker is a junior studying political science and economics

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