The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
David Brooks speaks at annual Business Breakfast
By CORY MINDERHOUT,
Published: April 11 2012
David Brooks was listening to a rebroadcast of a National Public Radio show from the day Japan surrendered in World War II while on his way home on a Sunday night in Washington.
On the show, Bing Crosby, a singer and actor, said it was not a time to be proud, but rather thankful that the war was over.
When Brooks got home, he started watching an NFL game and saw a wide receiver do a victory dance after tackling a quarterback who had made a two-yard sprint.
“I saw more celebrating over a two-yard run than I did over the victory of World War II,” said Brooks, a New York Times op-ed columnist and bestselling author.
Brooks spoke about America’s cultural shift from humility to self-confidence and arrogance at Seattle Pacific’s 16th Annual Downtown Business Breakfast this morning.
“There’s been a shift from self-effacing to self-advertising,” Brooks said. “People are advertising themselves on Facebook and Twitter.”
Americans’ confidence and self-evaluation does not always correspond to reality, Brooks said.
America is ranked 35th in the world in mathematics, but when asked how they rank, most Americans guess their country is No. 1, Brooks said. Ninety percent of college professors say they have above average teaching skills, Brooks said.
“We’ve become a very confident, high-esteeming society,” Brooks said. “We’ve had a generation that’s told each other how good we are.”
Brooks said America’s confidence is an asset that needs to be mixed with a healthy sense of humility.
“We need to have an opposable mind to balance an ethos of majesty with an ethos of humility,” Brooks said. “We need to blend the ethos of Achilles with the ethos of Moses.”
Unconscious thoughts and genetics affect many decisions people make, and while people are prone to taking credit for their accomplishments, other factors play a big role as well, Brooks said.
Brooks said a student is more likely to get into medical school if his or her application is read on a sunny day and not a rainy day.
“We think it’s us [making good choices], but it’s the things flowing through us,” Brooks said.
Despite America’s overconfidence, the country is headed in a good direction, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of optimistic people in this country, so we’ll be fine,” Brooks said.
Audience members said the cultural commentator’s insights were accurate and thought provoking.
“He kept me awake, even though it’s early,” said Ellie Rasmussen, a 17-year-old junior at King’s High School in Shoreline, referring to the breakfast’s 7 a.m. start time. Rasmussen works at her school’s newspaper and was invited to the breakfast by her journalism teacher.
“I’ve grown up with parents saying I can do anything and go to any college I want,” Rasmussen said. “I think we need to take a step back and realize we can’t just do anything.”
Bill Kauppila, a clinical instructor in accounting at SPU’s School of Business and Economics, said Brooks gave a realistic look at America’s collective attitude.
“I appreciated his analysis of our country and the attitudes I see,” Kauppila said. “I see changes in how people think, and I think [Brooks] is right on about that.”
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