Annual Meeting keynote speaker Arthur Brooks highlights a desire to shift division in country to a better way to connect with others


American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks speaks with The Bottom Line ahead of his keynote address at the Kentucky Chamber Annual Meeting

As America sees an increasing amount of political disagreement and a contemptuous national dialogue, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks wants to see compassion and dignity enter back into politics.

In an interview with The Bottom Line ahead of his keynote address to the Kentucky Chamber’s Annual Meeting on July 19 in Louisville, Brooks said his talk to Kentucky business leaders and policymakers will aim to give people a new way of thinking about the division seen in the country and a way to better connect with one another “despite the unpleasantness of our current political environment.”

“The result is that we’re forgetting that we are a country full of people who fundamentally need each other—especially those who are different than us or might disagree with us,” Brooks said.

Brooks is the author of multiple books including “The Conservative Heart” in which he writes about the idea that the conservative movement needs to transition to a more compassionate approach to politics. He said he became passionate about the free enterprise movement because of his belief that free markets, strong civic instruction, and American leadership around the world provide the best chance to live a life of freedom and opportunity and can serve as a key way to address poverty.

“By focusing on the why—values of compassion, freedom, opportunity, and care for the least of these—rather than the what, I believe we can make the free enterprise movement appealing to an audience beyond even traditionally conservative circles,” Brooks said.

With the election of President Donald Trump and the divisiveness in the country becoming even more evident in recent years, Brooks said he believes the political shifts happening in the country are rooted in what he calls the “dignity deficit,” which he attributes to economic and other societal issues in the last decade that he says has many individuals questioning if the American Dream is attainable for them.

“When people feel as though society is telling them they aren’t needed or that they can’t succeed in life, the attenuation of a sense of dignity is enormous. This sense of frustration was a key driver of President Trump’s 2016 victory. So, what either of our parties look like in the future is hard to say at this point, but it will certainly depend, at least in part, on how our leaders respond to the problem of the dignity deficit,” Brooks told The Bottom Line.

As for Brooks’ philosophies on politics and how he feels about the current political dialogue happening in the country and the way the president communicates with the American people, Brooks stated one thing that concerns him about the political dialogue is the amount of contempt, which he feels is corrosive to democracy.

“If we only ever view the other side as knaves and fools, not worthy of respect or consideration, we will find it increasingly difficult to find any points of agreement and make progress for those who most need our institutions to function well. Contempt ultimately hurts Americans who are poor far more than those who are well-off. This makes it critically important that we recognize this problem and work to remember once again how to disagree constructively,” Brooks said.

Brooks will give the keynote address “Bringing America Together” at the Kentucky Chamber Annual Meeting on July 19 at the Omni Louisville Hotel at 6:30 p.m. See the full agenda and register for the Business Summit and Annual Meeting here. 

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Jacqueline Pitts
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