Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza came to Yale on Friday to discuss American exceptionalism and President Barack Obama’s “anti-colonial” agenda.
During D’Souza’s visit, which was sponsored by the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program, he participated in a small conversation group with roughly 12 students and gave a lecture to a larger audience. D’Souza recently directed a documentary film, “2016: Obama’s America,” which has garnered national attention for criticizing Obama’s ideological upbringing. While the seminar focused on religion in America, his lecture — entitled “What’s So Great About America?” — drew nearly 80 students, parents and Connecticut residents to William L. Harkness Hall to hear D’Souza speak about the way in which he thinks Obama betrayed the American dream.
“Countries go up and countries go down,” D’Souza said. “But never before have we had a president who seeks decline — for whom decline is a moral objective.”
D’Souza, who is a native of India, explained how the American dream drew him to the United States. He said the American identity is based on the acceptance of certain ideals, unlike other countries, where nationality “is a function of birth and blood.” Citing historical examples, D’Souza said the values of entrepreneurialism, individualism and idealism in the foreign-policy arena make up the central tenets of American exceptionalism.
But D’Souza said Obama does not embrace American exceptionalism. Instead, he argued, Obama endorses the ideology of anti-colonialism — an ideology that he said rejects entrepreneurship and capitalism. According to anti-colonialists such as Obama, D’Souza said, “America is the leading rogue nation in the world.”
In the Middle East, President Obama’s agenda has allowed “radical Muslims” to bring down “America’s closest allies,” D’Souza said. But in the United States, he added, Obama has sought to impede fossil fuel development, while continuing to champion oil drilling abroad.
D’Souza said unlike past Democratic presidents, Obama’s failures are intentional, adding that he is “the architect of American decline.”
“Is he an America-hater? Is he a traitor? Is he a Manchurian candidate being controlled by some cabal? Is he a secret Muslim? No, no, no and no,” D’Souza said. “[Obama] subscribes to an ideology that sees America as wrong … and he sees his job, and he’s very good at it, at cutting America down to size.”
At his seminar earlier in the day, D’Souza spoke about the rise of secularism and the role of faith in the public sphere, said Bijan Aboutorabi ’13, a student who attended the discussion group.
The audience’s reactions to D’Souza’s talk were mixed. Harry Graver ’14, vice president of the Buckley Program, said he was happy that the event featured a healthy exchange of views, providing a good opportunity for students to interact with D’Souza. But he added that he was “definitely surprised” at how much D’Souza’s lecture focused on Obama instead of offering a historical perspective.
But Jonathan Silverstone ’15, who exchanged remarks with D’Souza about Iran during the lecture, said he was disappointed with D’Souza’s responses.
“It’s easy … to make these broad statements about Obama’s true motivations when you’re completely ignoring all of his policies,” Silverstone said.
Michael Geiser, a parent of a Yale student, said D’Souza “sounded like a politician.” Rosemarie Geiser, his wife who also attended, said she did not agree with D’Souza’s message, though “it was good to hear the opposition.”
D’Souza was the fourth guest brought to Yale by the Buckley Program this year.