“Congress is broken, Wall Street is broken and the media is broken,” announced Howard Dean, former six-term Governor of Vermont and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, in his talk to the Andover community last Thursday.
In order to prompt social change in more innovative ways without relying on the traditional “broken” political system of the United States, Dean said that Millennials opt to create alternative vehicles for change, such as using the Internet to pressure the government, instead of entering politics themselves. On the other hand, he said, his generation would protest against the government to no avail.
“In my generation, as we grew up, we were a rebellious generation; we wanted to do everything differently. We were going to change the system. But my perception of your generation is that you are simply going to go around the system,” said Dean.
“Your generation is not ideologically bound to what you work on. You find the 90 percent of stuff that you all agree on, and paper over the 10 percent you don’t in order to make the change you want to see,” continued Dean. “Your generation has more combined intellectual power than any previous generation, and you’re connected across cultural, religious and international boundaries—you really are the first global generation.”
While legal and policy-based changes, such as non-discrimination acts and affirmative action, are important, they often don’t have the same impact as the work of outside non-profits, according to Dean.
“40 years after the Civil Rights movement, education in the inner city is no better. It doesn’t do any good to have a lot of legal protections for people who have been discriminated against if they can’t have the same access to a decent education, because they can’t get ahead without a good education in this country,” said Dean.
On the other hand, Teach for America, which recruits a diverse group of leaders with records of achievement to work to expand educational opportunities for low-income communities, has had more success in fixing the education gap, according to Dean.
He also cited the Internet protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) as examples of this generation’s ability to circumvent the political system to induce change.
When Congress attempted to pass the SOPA/PIPA bills, which were intended to expand federal regulation of online posting, millions of Americans voiced their opposition online. The SOPA/PIPA vote was called off after three days of heated online protest, said Dean.
Dean emphasized the commitment the Millennials have towards creating changes and helping others. “Even if you go to work at Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs has non-profit initiatives like ‘10,000 women’ and ‘10,000 empowered’ because they realize that in order to hire you, the first question you’ll ask is, ‘What are you doing for society?’ Not, ‘How much money will I make?’” Dean said.
Dean was also the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from 2005 to 2009. According to Dean, during his time on the DNC he created the “50 State Plan,” a project to campaign in all 50 states regardless of their usual political affiliations. His plan later served as the framework for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party’s landslide victory in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.
“My dad worked for Governor Dean for a number of years, and they grew very close. Dean had always mentioned that he would love to come speak at Andover,” said Josh Murphy ’15, who invited Dean to campus after discussing the possibility with Tyler Olkowski ’13, former President of the PA Democrats Club.