Nationally syndicated columnist and best-selling author Arianna Huffington asked people “to connect the dots and get involved” in major national and international issues during visit to Yale Friday.
Huffington, who spoke at a Calhoun College Master’s Tea and then at a lecture later that night, urged students and New Haven residents to rally against the ensuing war in Iraq, push President George W. Bush ’68 to bring back the social programs of the New Deal era, and fight corporate greed and corruption on Wall Street.
She appeared with Tom Sholtz, leader of the rock band Boston, at both events, attracting a combined audience of 200 people.
Huffington’s visit came as part of a nationwide college tour promoting her new book “Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption are Undermining America.” In the book, Huffington criticizes political and corporate abuses.
The Greek-born Huffington triggered major media attention last fall when her group, Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars, launched a television advertisement accusing sports utility vehicle drivers of guzzling so much gas that they support Middle Eastern terrorists.
She said even though many local media outlets refused to air her advertisements because they were so shocking, the campaign was ultimately successful, leading to a decrease in SUV sales.
“People started connecting the dots between gas-guzzling cars, our oil suppliers and homeland security,” Huffington said. “We are not powerless. Indeed, we are incredibly powerful. Public opinion here, when aroused, is more powerful than anyone in Washington.”
Huffington, who in the early 1990s was a conservative Republican allied with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has since had an ideological evolution. Now a registered independent, she challenges both Republicans and Democrats to tackle serious issues and stop protecting only the interests of their corporate constituents.
What is dangerous in the United States today is a loss of checks and balances and a “bipartisan betrayal of the people,” Huffington said. She told the audience that America is at a turning point in its history.
“We will decide whether we will continue down the road we are going by shredding the social contract,” she said. “This is a time to figure out what to do for the people who are hurting terribly — for those who have been left out of the prosperity of the 1990s. The free-market system, unrestrained, leaves us to a situation where the dollar directs our destiny.”
Sholtz, who agreed that corporate America has grown too large, said people cannot “let the dollar do the driving” because the profits will not “guide [them] to a better world.”
Sholtz penned the lyrics of Boston’s new single, “Corporate America,” which harshly criticized the U.S. free-market system. He said the lyrics were so harsh that radio stations, whose playlists he said were decided in corporate boardrooms, refused to air the song.
Huffington also poked fun at the Bush Administration.
“The good thing about spineless leaders is that they scare easily,” Huffington said. “I believe very much in using satire in bringing about social change. Humor is essential because nobody wants to be preached at — especially from someone with a Greek accent.”
Impressed with her book and attacks on corporate America, Scholtz presented Huffington with a check for $10,000 at the tea to pay for additional advertisements and campaigns.
“[The title] ‘Pigs at the Trough’ is entirely unfair to pigs,” Scholtz said.