Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, November 15, 2021

Brooks' stories reflect politics, policy on 'deepest level'

Brooks' stories reflect politics, policy on 'deepest level' Photos by Focal Flame

See with understanding.

Affirm with insight.

Critique with care.

These were the central themes of “Politics and Policy with David Brooks,” the La Follette School’s fall Journalist in Residence event, on October 27.

Brooks, a best-selling author and New York Times columnist, conceded the atypical nature of his talk at the outset of the public discussion.

“My topic is politics and policy, and this is going to be an unusual speech about politics and policy,” Brooks began. “But I assure you, it is about politics and policy, at the deepest level.”

Brooks weaved through a series of stories illustrating fundamental skills that impact personal relationships as well as politics. He pointed to facts and figures suggesting a deterioration of societal well-being, ranging from depression rates to how much individuals trust their neighbors.

“Many of our societies’ great problems flow from people not feeling seen,” he said. “Morality is a skill. A skill of treating people with consideration.”

The evening event moderated by La Follette School Director and Professor Susan Webb Yackee (which is available online), packed Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall. It capped a daylong visit from the journalist in which he engaged with community leaders and La Follette School faculty and graduate students. In a conversation with local and state journalists, he asked questions about Wisconsin’s current political climate, and shared his thoughts on writing about national politics for the New York Times.

Brooks’s visit was made possible by the La Follette School’s Kohl Initiative, which was launched in 2019, and financial support from American Family Insurance.