Howard Zinn on Obama, and the Promise
Mary Gordon, James Carroll, and Ellen Goodman join tonight’s panel
President Barack Obama is getting clobbered by the left, the right, and the public, which is turning against the war in Afghanistan, fretting about unemployment and the bleak economy, and questioning whether he really should have won that Nobel Prize.
Tonight, a panel featuring Howard Zinn, a BU professor emeritus of political science, novelist Mary Gordon, author James Carroll, and Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman will weigh in. The Promise of Change: Vision and Reality in Obama’s Presidency is this year’s installment of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series, which kicks off Alumni Weekend 2009 at 7 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center. A live video feed for an overflow audience will be presented at the School of Law Auditorium.
Zinn — historian, playwright, and activist — taught at BU from 1964 until his retirement in 1988. He has published some 20 books, including his best-known work, A People’s History of the United States, and a memoir, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. His current project is a documentary based on A People’s History, which will be aired on the History Channel in December.
The panelists, Zinn says, are distinguished writers who will bring unique perspectives to the topic.
Mary Gordon, the Millicent C. McIntosh Professor in English and Writing at Barnard College, is the author of six novels, two memoirs, and a collection of short stories. Her book Reading Jesus: A Writer’s Encounter with the Gospels will be published by Pantheon Books this month.
James Carroll was the Catholic chaplain at BU from 1969 to 1974, when he left the priesthood to become a writer. He is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk University, a columnist for the Boston Globe, a regular contributor to The Daily Beast and has taught at Boston University. He has written several books, including the best seller Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews (which also became a documentary he narrated) and this year’s Practicing Catholic.
Ellen Goodman has been writing about social change, particularly the women’s movement, and its impact on American life for more than three decades. She began writing her Globe column in 1974, and in 1980 won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary. Her columns appear in more than 300 newspapers and have been published in six collections.
Zinn, a longtime antiwar activist, has been critical of Obama, saying he has not delivered on his rhetoric.
“I believe he is dominated by the same forces that have determined American foreign policy since World War II — the military industrial complex,” Zinn says. “He showed his subservience to the militarists as soon as he appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Robert Gates as secretary of defense. By surrounding himself with hawks, he has made it inevitable that he would pursue an aggressive military posture.”
He believes criticism of Obama’s performance on health-care and economic reform is justified, because Obama is pursuing them “half-heartedly.” His health policy, Zinn says, “is far short of what is needed: true health security, free for all, administered by the government like the Social Security system. And he is taking economic measures to bail out banks and financial institutions, but avoids giving direct aid to people who need it, because he believes in the ‘market system,’ in giving huge sums of money to the rich, claiming that will trickle down to the rest of the population.”
The Howard Zinn Lecture Series, made possible by the gift of Alex MacDonald (CAS’72) and Maureen A. Strafford (MED’76), is an annual talk on contemporary issues from a historical point of view.
The Promise of Change: Vision and Reality in Obama’s Presidency takes place tonight, October 22, at 7 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Ave. An overflow audience will be accommodated at the School of Law Auditorium, 765 Commonwealth Ave., with a live video feed. Admission is free to the BU community, but tickets are required. More information is available at the Alumni Web site or by calling 800-800-3466.
Cynthia K. Buccini can be reached at email@example.com Comments