Journalist E.J. Dionne Urges Audience to “Make America Empathetic Again”

Political Commentator Recognized with Trinity’s 7th Berkman Memorial Journalism Award

E.J. Dionne; Mark R. Silk; and Connecticut Mirror journalist Tom Condon, past Berkman Award honoree.
Hartford, CT, January 9, 2017 – Among the visiting lecturer highlights of the fall 2016 semester at Trinity College was a talk by E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post titled “After 2016: Can a Divided Country Heal Itself?” Dionne was honored during his November 17 visit as the seventh recipient of the College’s Moses Berkman Memorial Journalism Award, in recognition of his career as one of the country’s foremost political journalists. Dionne also participated in classroom sessions with faculty and students while on campus.

Dionne was introduced to a standing-room-only audience in Mather Hall’s Washington Room by Mark Silk, director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life and professor of religion in public life. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be introducing here at this moment in American history,” said Silk. “For nearly a quarter of a century, E.J. has been our foremost voice of reason, decency, and civility in a national political discourse that has increasingly abandoned all of the above.”

E.J. Dionne visits with
Trinity Tripod Co-editors
Campbell North '17 (left) and Annelise Gilbert '17.
 Dionne observed that in the 2016 presidential election results, the United States saw the biggest gap between the popular vote and the electoral vote since 1876. One of the greatest dividers of the election, he said, was revealed by the question, “do you think America is better now than 50 years ago?”

“The most important word in ‘Make America Great Again’ was ‘again,’” said Dionne, adding that a point he wished to emphasize is the need to create a more empathetic country. He noted that he had mentioned in another presentation that he’d like a hat with the slogan “Make America Empathetic Again” and was pleasantly surprised to later be presented with just such a hat by someone who had heard his remark.

“We are having a very difficult time as a country empathizing with each other,” said Dionne. “One thing that we might take out of this campaign: empathy needs to be complete. There can’t be groups toward which we feel obligated to feel empathetic and groups toward which we don’t feel obligated to feel empathetic.”

Dionne referenced a PRRI survey that showed 56 percent of Democrats didn’t have a close friend or family member who voted for Donald Trump and 52 percent of Republicans didn’t have a close friend or family member who voted by Hilary Clinton.

“Oddly, in this very divided time, we’re going to need a new spirit of bipartisanship,” said Dionne.

Sharing that he grew up in a family that argued a lot about politics, Dionne said, “I want us to have real, civil argument. To enter imaginatively into the argument of another. Those are the conversations we need to have over the next four years.”

Listen to a recording of Dionne’s talk here. View more photos from his visit here.

The Moses Berkman Memorial Journalism Award is supported by The Moses and Florence Berkman Endowed Fund at Trinity College, in honor of the late Moses Berkman, Class of 1920. Moses Berkman was an outstanding journalist who served the Hartford Times as a political correspondent, columnist, and editorial writer from the early 1920s until his death in 1956. The award is given every two years by the College’s Program on Public Values.

Written by Kathy Andrews
Photo by John Marinelli