Tavis Smiley lectures on patriotism at SMC
Last Tuesday, the Santa Monica College Associates invited talk show host, political commentator and author Tavis Smiley to speak at SMC’s lecture series. Smiley remained outspoken about foreign policy in the United States during his lecture.
Smiley is a broadcaster, author and publisher who has emerged as a voice for change, according to his online profile. He currently hosts the late-night television talk show Tavis Smiley on PBS, as well as The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West, both from Public Radio International, and Tavis Talks on the Tavis Smiley Network.
Smiley cowrote “The Rich and the Rest of Us” with Dr. Cornell West, a Princeton alumnus who received his master's degree and doctorate in philosophy at Princeton and has appeared on talk shows such as Bill Maher and Colbert Report as well as other prominent news broadcasts such as C-SPAN and CNN.
The Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey, finding that a majority of Americans are opposed to spending on the poor and the needy.
These programs are not considered a top priority for the president and Congress and the economy and jobs instead dominate the public's priorities especially in the light of the recession, according to Pew.
Household income growth has been greater for better off households, a 67 percent increase, while lower income households had a 19 percent increase, also according to Pew Research.
Smiley rebuked the president's notion of American exceptionalism, calling it cheap populism.
"The gap between the promise of America and the possibility in America is widening, but we still want to allude to this idea of exceptionalism," said Smiley.
The president spoke of exceptionalism in his first term, saying he thought "everyone felt their country was exceptional, like the Brits,” as quoted on MSNBC.
He then added a few years later that Americans were exceptional because of this or that, but mostly “because the values enshrined in the Constitution were exceptional,” in an April 4, 2009 press conference in Strasbourg, France where Obama was asked about “American exceptionalism.”
“The president's going into Syria are wars of choice rather than wars of necessity,” Smiley said at the lecture. “We don't need to go into another undeclared war."
Smiley added that the red line the president drew is "not diplomacy, but a game of chicken."
In the era of Obama, there has been no progress on poverty at all, said Smiley.
"Every economic indicator for people of color has fallen further behind," he stated.
Smiley, entrenched in the war on poverty, said one in two Americans are in or near poverty.
“The middle class are the new poor and are a paycheck away from it,” he said.
One percent of the people own and control 42 percent of the wealth, according to Smiley.
"I don't think it has to be that way when there's people that have more than they need," said fashion design student Alexis Crayton.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation's official poverty rate in 2012 was 15 percent, with 46.5 million people living at or below the poverty line.
"If they taxed more of the wealthy instead of the middle class, people would make more of a decent living," business student Ashanay Williams said.
This is a critical time in our nation, Smiley said, referring to Congress and what he claims to be obstructionism.
“[Congress is] so hell-bent on self-emulation trying to defeat the president by setting themselves on fire, trying to shut down the government and defund Obamacare,” Smiley said.
Smiley questioned how we are so "exceptional" if we can't feed our people, employ our people, educate them or give them high quality healthcare.
Smiley said that education can be a passport to the future.
“It is more important for people of color because without it, we are twice defeated," he said. "What puts you over the top is, if you can you take that education, that intellect, and make it usable in your love of people and your service. It's the difference in being successful and great."
Smiley's speech portrayed the idea of respecting leadership, but not always taking it at face value.
"Always respect the president, always protect the president, and always correct the president,” Smiley said.