Panelists ponder political future

PBS films 'The Tavis Smiley Show' on campus

by Amanda D'Ambra

Prominent figures in today's media, business and politics convened in Lisner Auditorium Thursday night to discuss the future of American politics for a live broadcast of PBS' "The Tavis Smiley Show."

The three-hour program focused on the changing face of American politics, and the panelists agreed the deeply divided political environment is causing a great deal of problems for the entire population.

"There is this short-term mentality of, 'I want it yesterday.' Decisions are based on, 'Will I get elected in two years, will I get re-elected in four years?'" CNBC "Closing Bell" anchor Maria Bartiromo said. "That is at the crux of our problems."

The panelists expressed generally pessimistic views when weighing in on issues facing the country today.

"A hundred million Americans are worse off than their parents were... how do you move forward if one half of a country's people say the best days of the nation are behind us?" Huffington Post Editor in Chief Arianna Huffington asked. Education, they agreed, was key for moving the country forward politically and socially.

"We need to give people the opportunity to get educated, work hard and move up the ladder," said Bartiromo.

Former speechwriter for President George W. Bush David Frum said "bad attitudes" across society are the culprit for students falling short.

"We spend so much money educating children, but we are not getting the results we want... it is all in our attitudes," the conservative blogger said.

Economic issues were also a big focus of the panel's discussion. Panelists said the financial crisis is still the dominating issue in America today, citing a high unemployment rate and widening social class gaps as pressing concerns.

"We are seeing a realignment that we saw during the Great Depression. We learned to take care of our own people then," Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino, said. "A lot of legislation came out of this Great Recession that tried to do this... but we did just an okay job."

Kumar emphasized that focusing on education would allow America to restore its economic stability.

The last hour of the program focused on how to move away from the country's current problems. Smiley asked the panelists whether they thought Republicans were going to change the rules of government with the increased power of the party in Congress.

"The Republicans know that the president is vulnerable. He misstepped the center-right nation when he passed partisan legislation," David Brody, chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, said.

Huffington immediately disputed Brody's "center-right nation" term, arguing instead that Americans need to come together from all sides, regardless of political persuasion.

"We're on a journey towards a more perfect union," she said.

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