The Linda and Mitch Hart Lecture: A Student Perspective

By: Ulises Aguilar

“How close are we to the edge?” This is the question that James Stavridis, Fareed Zakaria, and David Gergen delved into on Tuesday night, September 12, 2023, at the SMU Tate Lecture Series presenting the Linda and Mitch Hart Lecture. All three “veteran political watchmen,” as the Tate Lecture Series staff called them, were surprisingly optimistic about America’s future. This optimism was based on four main points which were addressed throughout the night: immigrants still want to come to the U.S., we have an abundance of natural resources, we have a culture of innovation, and we have allies all over the world (as opposed to China and Russia). That is not to say that we are in perfect shape either. The experts addressed concerns regarding race, social isolation, and our polarized political system.

While this lecture primarily focused on the political system in the United States, as future political scientists, we aim to apply concepts we study beyond our geographical borders to a global stage. On that note, it feels as if my political science major is comprised of two core aspects: how did we get here and what can that tell us about where we are headed? To elaborate on this, so far, my work has consisted of recognizing and analyzing political (and other) patterns in history, considering their applicability to present events, and using them to give us insight into our future. We are always answering an array of questions like what creates authoritarian governments, what leads to democratization, what incentivizes countries to collaborate on the international stage, etc. The trends that we study to answer these questions often paint a bleak picture that seems to be telling us that “Democracy is dying”. This notion is constantly being reinforced by Freedom House, our professors, and the media alike.

Yet, having these experts share their viewpoints on the prospects of America and paint them in a positive light is encouraging. As mentioned previously, Zakaria and Gergen did not shy away from some of the problems that America is facing. They delved into some of the social pressures that future generations are facing as we begin to move away from in-person social activities, such as attending church, joining bowling leagues, etc., and as we become more dependent on social media to fill these voids. After hearing these concerns, most audience members would find themselves asking what the solutions to these problems are (myself included). Well, to quote Fareed, “who knows?”

This answer is important for students to hear as it serves as a reminder that, as cliché as it sounds, we are the future of public policy, and it will be our job to address these concerns in years to come. We will have to use what we know of the past and present to be proactive in how we address these issues—many of which we have yet to see.