Salam urges Yale to “keep America weird”

Reihan Salam spoke about American politics and economics in an event sponsored by the William F. Buckley Jr. Foundation.
Reihan Salam spoke about American politics and economics in an event sponsored by the William F. Buckley Jr. Foundation. Photo by Aleksandra Gjorgievska.

Non-fiction writer and policy analyst Reihan Salam urged Yale students and alumni to “keep America weird” Thursday afternoon.

Salam spoke to roughly 30 students and alumni for an hour about topics that ranged from American exceptionalism to his thoughts on conservative American ideology in an event sponsored by the William F. Buckley, Jr. Foundation. As he outlined the modern challenges facing the United States, Salam discussed the changing face of American values and addressed the direction in which he thinks some national policies should head.

“When I say keep America weird, I mean that we need to become more experimental,” Salam said. “It’s going to be hard, but what I ultimately care about you guys doing is thinking about what ideas we want to construct and how we need to face contemporary challenges.”

American ideology is becoming distinct from European values, Salam said. Europe and the U.S. also have different conceptions of what defines a typical family structure, Salam said. In Europe, more children and teenagers live with both of their biological parents than do in the U.S., he said, adding that students who come from single-parent homes are significantly disadvantaged in terms of educational opportunities.

After comparing the U.S. to Europe, Salam shifted his focus to American politics.

Salam discussed contemporary right-wing movements such as the Tea Party, which he said has developed around a predominantly white and middle-aged to elderly segment of the population, he added — people who feel their status in society has been threatened recently by a strong movement toward societal change propagated by the modern American left.

Before his talk closed, Salam, who is a policy advisor at economic research nonprofit e21, discussed the current state of the national economy. He emphasized the importance of goods becoming cheaper and said the basics of middle-class life should be more accessible. Salam said the American economy would likely crumble without these changes.

Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13, president of the William F. Buckley Foundation, said he thinks Yale should host more talks like Salam’s.

“I thought he was absolutely fantastic, and his talk was a nice evolution of the Buckley program,” Zelinsky said.

Salam has worked for both the New Republic and the New York Times.

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