Yalies are “guiding lights” for each other and the world, Eric Liu ’90, an adviser and speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73, said during a Silliman Master’s Tea Monday.
Speaking to a room packed with students yesterday afternoon, Liu focused his talk on the educational value of diversity. Liu, author of “The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker,” said students should take advantage of the invaluable opportunities to learn from diverse interactions at Yale.
“The clock is ticking for you,” he said. “How many of you would want to engage in a conversation with someone who is nothing unlike you? Remember that the choice you make now will stay with you forever.”
Liu said Yale students and all Americans must take the time to “[see] other people’s stories.”
“Few people take the time to connect the dots between the lives they live and the lives that other people around them live,” he said.
He also said that in the future, people will turn to Yale graduates as “guiding lights.” Liu said students should appreciate those who have influenced them and embrace their own responsibilities as teachers.
“Everybody in this room is by definition a leader,” he said. “As leaders and as teachers we should pass on our history. We shouldn’t be in the business of celebrating and recognizing diversity, but choose to do something with it.”
The role of teachers and mentors in society is the focus of his new book, “The Guiding Light,” planned for release in 2005, Liu said.
Liu said “story and storytelling” were also the deciding factors in the recent presidential election, in response to a student’s question. He said for a presidential candidate to win, he must be able to tell two stories — one about himself and one about his country.
“George W. Bush presented himself a guy who became president and was unsure of how to run things,” he said. “But after 9/11, he found a sense of purpose”.
He said Bush projected his personal story on the country as a whole, making it seem as though America’s only purpose was to defeat some “external forces of evil.” Liu said Kerry failed to offer his own version of the story.
“John Kerry failed miserably at telling a story”, he said. “You may not like George Bush’s story, but it’s better than nothing”.
He said Democrats should speak for the people in society who are left behind, and show that the values that really matter are not gay rights and abortion, but welfare, education, social security.
Amaris Singer ’07, whose mentoring relationship with her high school debate coach was included in Liu’s new book, said Liu was one of the reasons she decided to come to Yale.
“He was really inspiring,” she said. “This tea was amazing. Liu is a real person. He is attainable, and he is ready to save the world.”