Former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean ’71 told admitted prefrosh on Tuesday evening that their generation holds the solutions to dysfunction in Washington, the media and Wall Street.
In a Bulldog Days speech hosted by the Yale College Democrats, Dean spoke before an audience of over 100 prospective Yale students and undergraduates about his experiences at Yale, the “First Globals” generation and grassroots political change. He said today’s globally connected youth are characterized by respectful political discourse, a propensity for action and a sense of shared fate as a global community.
“You’ll never find another network that wants to change the world as much as this one [at Yale],” Dean said. “Unlike my generation, you do a lot more work and a lot less talking.”
Dean said the current generation has more respect for different opinions than the Baby Boomers. Though youth today are more “polite,” they do not challenge each other enough, he added.
Citing the Internet as a powerful tool to enact political change on the national and global stage, Dean said students should “erase the idea of ‘the other’ as a source of global conflict.” He added that while the Internet provides an easy opportunity to garner support for a cause, its drawback is the difficulty of establishing organized groups around a particular issue.
The younger generation is characterized politically by a “tighter ideological bandwidth” and is more centrist in its views than the Baby Boomers, Dean said, adding that today’s youth are more conservative on spending policies than the Democrats currently in office and more liberal than Republicans on social issues.
“It is so interesting to see common ground in your generation between groups who, in my generation, couldn’t even sit in the same room together,” he said.
As a Yale graduate and a father of two former Yale students, Dean also spoke to perspective students about his experiences with Yale and its surrounding community. He said New Haven is small enough for students to make impactful change but big enough “that there’s problems to work on.” Dean added that the size and diversity of Yale and the New Haven area creates the optimal environment to “get your hands dirty” with social and political work on a local level.
Nicole Hobbs ’14, president of the Yale College Democrats, said Dean’s positive experience with the University was one of the primary reasons they asked him to speak during Bulldog Days.
“As much as different organizations are trying to showcase what they do, we also want to show [the prospective students] how great Yale is,” she said.
Larry Milstein, a prospective student who attended the speech, said he found Dean’s optimistic view of the younger generation to be inspiring and helped him recognize the political responsibility of his generation.
Dean majored in political science and is currently teaching the residential college seminar “Understanding Politics and Politicians.”