The education of journalists and opinion writers should include a good measure of historical and philosophical context.

For example, Machiavelli sometimes is believed to have been an autocrat. But other philosophers pointed out that he was a fairly balanced political thinker. He no doubt believed in very strong leadership, but was probably not advocating autocracy.

Francis Bacon followed his father into politics, where corruption at the time was everywhere. Charged with corruption his political career ended when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Even so, he is still remembered for his belief that “knowledge is power.”

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were interested in politics but they chose to focus more on teaching politicians about philosophy.

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke believed that rational thinking came only from direct experience. Our mind is a complete “blank slate” when we are born.

Karl Marx believed in socialism and wanted to bring about rapid social and political change. He was not a communist, as many believe.

Existentialists simply believe that each individual develops his or her own philosophy, which usually includes elements of both religion and philosophy.

Some of our founding fathers actually read classical philosophy. You can find it right there in the Declaration of Independence.

Maybe the world really does need more “philosopher kings!”

When people discover that my undergraduate major was philosophy, their response often is something like, “Oh that really explains a lot.” Maybe so, but here is my explanation of how media, politics, and philosophy shapes my thinking even today.

For example, Plato was born into one of Athens’ politically influential families. After his true mentor Socrates was executed, Plato decided to dedicate his life to philosophy. He established his “Academy” which set out to educate and train politicians in philosophy.

This is why “media revolutions change everything” is a fundamental philosophical and political idea. If social media was available to Plato, there is no doubt that he would have explored both its’ positive and negative implications for Athens.

For Plato, knowledge was about truth, beauty, and virtue… and so it came to the world from a much higher authority.

In addition, Plato describes the ideal community in his Republic as harnessing people’s desires and talents for the greater good of the whole. Rulers, he argues, must therefore become philosophers… even Philosopher-Kings.

Plato saw an Athens “in decay,” and therefore, many of his ideas about leadership and community are clearly relevant for us today.

Pandemic and other social changes are causing parents and students to rethink the value of a college education.

The high price of some universities and the need for costly student loans are causing a great deal of rethinking about benefits.

Lower cost community colleges, transferring later to universities, and job training institutes, are becoming possible alternatives.

In addition, politically extreme trustees and alumni are working to influence curriculum at some institutions, causing these institutions to lose some of their appeal for many people.

Professors with controversial ideas are feeling that academic freedom is being threatened, and elect early retirement or leave the academic profession.

Budget pressures also can result in widespread incentives to retire early.

Teaching face-to-face vs. on-line teaching is also being debated… with some professors thinking that their subject-matter works just fine on-line…others think otherwise.

What to do with over-built facilities is also an issue in some institutions, especially with many staff able to work from home.

As a result, part-time or adjunct faculty (often less academically prepared) are being hired to replace full-time professors with traditional permanent (usually called tenure-track) positions.

While reducing costs, this will usually reduce the number of significant research activities… a traditional feature of most important universities.

Athletic visibility and television contracts can now become important for both student recruiting and income.

Did you ever have the opportunity to work for a person who was also a truly remarkable human being? I did. He brought me on to his staff as the “communication guy,” but I never imagined how much I would learn about communication from him.

Whenever I was struggling with a project he would say, “come sit with me.” I quickly learned that sitting with him really meant collaboration. We would sit silently until one of us was motivated to say something. Words really mattered to him and so I would always take away substantive ideas about how to proceed.

One day he asked me to help promote the tennis center, a passion he shared with then trustee chair Bayard Friedman. Another time he asked me to help John Roach with a booster organization following the collapse of the Southwest Conference. I found that “sitting” and collaborating with Friedman and Roach worked just as well as it did with Tucker.

After publishing a few articles about institutional communication, I had a publisher approach me about writing a book. I asked Tucker’s administrative assistant to schedule some time to talk with him about it. He quickly said if you are asking for time off to write a book, the answer is NO! But if you are asking if I think you should write that book my answer is YES.” I followed by inviting other authors to “sit and collaborate” with me about finding find my own approach to writing books. Once again, sitting and collaborating worked.

One day he came down to my office and asked if I was happy. I said how nice it was that he came to check on how well I was doing. But he reacted by saying “if you’re happy it’s bad. That usually means we are in a crisis”. I could not bring myself to tell him that I was always terrified when we were facing a crisis. But I must admit that I did enjoy “sitting with him” to find our best approach and language.

I never wrote his speeches. But one time I caught him putting some notes on the back of an envelope. He then proceeded to reward his audience with truly profound remarks. Profound, brief, and almost poetic language was his amazing strength. I tried to emulate this, but eventually came to realize that no one really could.

I was Chancellor Tucker’s communication guy, but I learned more about my subject-matter from him than I ever imagined I would. He was a master communicator, inspiring leader, and a truly wonderful human being.

  1. Leaving Afghanistan too quickly… a missed opportunity to brand himself as tough with compassion
  2. Not having a plan to protect the gains made by women and other U.S. supporters in Afghanistan
  3. Not visiting the Mexican border with his Vice President to deal face-to-face with his critics
  4. Not putting in place a clear pathway to citizenship for all immigrants
  5. Making the Pandemic and boosters his primary priority… causing him to miss other timely issues
  6. Not dealing with right-to-life exceptions soon enough… the consequences of repealing Roe v. Wade
  7. Relying too much on gas price reductions when food price increases became the big inflation issue
  8. Waiting too long to address Trump’s shortcomings head-on
  9. Looking too tired on TV… when his age was becoming a verbalized concern
  10. Failing to prepare a successor from his political party

Climate change and extreme politics have come together to bring us frightfully dangerous times.

Choosing “political party over country” has been the result of political polarization in Washington.

Gaining power and keeping it now has become the primary political objective of politics today.

The Supreme Court has now become totally political… and a complete champion of states’ rights.

As a result, the party in power in most states is passing extreme laws… about the right to bear arms, right to life, and reshaping districts to make it almost impossible for the party in power to lose an election.

Social media are also fueling hate groups… paving the way for autocrats, dictators, and increased violence. Some even talk of a social media-inspired civil war.

Verbal assaults on police and the FBI are producing threats of violent attacks on them… and their families.

These are extremely dangerous times.

Once power has been gained, the objective became to keep it no matter what.

  1. Media revolutions changed everything… most especially politics.
  2. Politics has now become a game with all new rules.
  3. The Republican Party has fine-tuned playing this game.
  4. Winning and holding on to power became the only objective, no matter one’s personal beliefs.
  5. Personal integrity and traditional party ideology are now fading away.
  6. Democrats, focused on internal party disagreements, have been criticized for not playing this game more skillfully.
  7. This game will likely lead to an autocratic government… and along with it the end of fair elections and American democracy.

Politics today has become a game with new rules that require saying whatever it takes to win and hold on to power, whether its true or not.

Not too long ago political parties developed idea-based platforms, ratified them at their conventions, and then competed to win elections.

Redistricting (often called gerrymandering) in each state allowed the dominant party to pass laws and rules which virtually guaranteed that the party in power could hold on to that power.

The Republican Party gradually moved from advancing conservative ideas to using redistricting and filibusters to hold on to the power they had gained.

Party politics became a power-playing game focused on controlling election districts to maintain power and win races.

Republicans in Washington focused on stopping Democrats from accomplishing anything while Democrats focused on advancing social programs and debating among themselves the best way to do that.

Democrats therefore ended up focusing more on infighting between progressives and moderates than on developing idea-based platforms they all could rally around.

The July 16 issue of the Economist abandoned it’s nonpartisan policy and argues that in the U.S. only Democrats can save democracy… but to do so they must get their members all on the same page.

The fact is… Gerrymandered power could end up destroying our democracy..

It depends on how long NATO continues to support Ukraine and how long it will take for the social media generation in Russia to take charge.

  1. At first, Putin expected to defeat Ukraine in just a few days.

2. But he quickly learned that Ukraine citizens are willing to fight and die for their freedom.

3. Putin’s longtime dream has been to bring back the old Soviet Empire.

4. But he obviously has not understood how new media revolutions are changing everything.

5. Young people everywhere are thinking differently about the world and their role in it.

6. Russia’s future will ultimately be shaped by its Internet-savvy generation.

7. And there may even be a few in Putin’s inner circle that are already seeing this coming.

If NATO countries support Ukraine long enough for young Russians to take charge, Putin’s dream of restoring the empire will certainly fail.

The U.S. and its’ allies continue to share a belief in freedom and democracy, but differences are beginning to emerge on other critical issueseven those related to the future of Ukraine.

New York Times opinion writer Tom Friedman wrote sometime ago that the world is flat, suggesting that anyone with a laptop could now have global influence. Since then digital technology and the proliferation of social media platforms have created a world of misinformation and widespread confusion… a world that we now must reinvent.

In his new book, Ian Bremmer, founder and CEO of the Eurasia Group, describes how globalism should be reinvented. He lists three big issues that cannot be avoided by every country in the world, small and large:

1. Coming pandemics and other contagious diseases; these can be better managed worldwide simply from the lessons we have already learned.

2. The international ravages of climate change; dangerous extreme weather events producing physical damage will continue to get worse.

3. Endless technology disruptions; most especially artificial intelligence (AI) confusing what is real and what is not.

In addition to dealing with these big issues, Bremmer also sees dangerous conflicts developing between the two super powers: China and the U.S. He therefore suggests that the U.S. and China will only avoid eventual war by agreeing now to compete mostly on trade policies and activities.

Very strong institutions will be necessary to address these and other issues. The United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank must be strengthened, and some new ones will also no doubt be needed. The day when the U.S can lead the world is over. Institutions must take the place of relying on countries.