“Will America See Another 'Upswing'?” SwatTalk
with Robert Putnam ’63, Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University
Recorded on Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Mike Dennis Good evening, and welcome to our SwatTalk, Will America See another "Upswing" with Professor Robert Putnam, class of 1963. My name is Mike Dennis, class of 1993, and a member of the Alumni Council. Before introducing Professor Putnam, and before we begin, a couple of quick items. First, SwatTalks are brought to you by the Alumni Council as an initiative to engage you all the broader Swarthmore community. Please visit the Alumni Council website at swarthmore.edu to learn more about your council, other council initiatives, and upcoming SwatTalks. Second, your questions of Bob are highly encouraged and you can type them into the Q&A box at any time or the chat box rather, and I'll do my best to cover as many as possible and may have to summarize for brevity in a couple of cases. And third, the SwatTalk is being recorded and the recording will be available on the SwatTalks recordings webpage within two to three weeks. And finally, I wanted to thank fellow Alumni Council member, Joe Becker, class of 1966. He first approached Bob with the idea for this SwatTalk. And Joe shared with me about Bob, "He was three years ahead of me and highly regarded intellectually while at Swarth, a golden boy, someone who would make a significant mark in whatever he chose to do. And to this, there is no doubt." Professor Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the British Academy, and past President of the American Political Scientist Association, and he has been honored by countless awards, 16 honorary degrees, and in 2013, the National Humanities Medal, which is our country's highest honor for contributions to the humanities, which President Barack Obama awarded him for "Deepening our understanding of Community in America." Professor Putnam has published 15 books, putting his most recent, "The Upswing" a groundbreaking analysis which will be the focus of our conversation today. I would say finally, in addition to being a Swattie of which we're all very proud is also a product of the Quaker Matchbox and he and his wife, Rosemary, class of 1962, met each other and found each other on campus. And she, I believe is there in the background as well.
Robert Putnam She is there, (laughs)
Mike Dennis So, Professor Putnam, thank you so much.
Robert Putnam It's great, Mike, thank you very much for arranging this. I'm overjoyed to be speaking again to the Swarthmore audience. I have a feeling, I probably do that too much, but from my point of view, and I have a feeling that probably the Swarthmore audience maybe overdosing on Putnam, but Putnam never overdoses on Swarthmore. So I'm delighted to be here. And I wanna say, first of all, I wanna give a shout out to the class of '63, maybe one or two of the members of the class of '63 who are actually with us. Although at the moment, I can't see whether who else is watching the webinar. So here's what I'd like to do. I'd like to talk to you a little bit about this new book. It turns out, well, maybe it get to this later, to have actually some quite significant connections to Swarthmore College itself. Although it's a book about America, it's not just a book about Swarthmore or indeed just about universities at all. So Mike, maybe you can pull up the first of the slides and I'm gonna be talking here with a PowerPoint. And if you as a listener are allergic to a PowerPoint slide, I understand that a lot, but for at least part of this talk, I wanna show you some pictures. And it's just easier for me to show you the pictures through the PowerPoint, rather than trying to draw them with my hands. So this book, "The Upswing, How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again" is like many of my books over the last 25 years attempting to do two things, that is to speak academically and make a significant academic scientific contribution to our understanding, in this case, to our understanding of American, recent American history, but at the same time, to speak to a much wider audience because I wanna change America and I wanna change America in ways that I think and many people think would be desirable. And in order to do that, I've got to not just write books that only academic reads, I have to write books that the public reaches. And indeed, that combination of trying to do two things at once to try to do serious academic work, and also to have a serious impact on the wider society. That combination itself is what I personally got out of Swarthmore. That's what I inherited from my four years at Swarthmore. So I'm gonna have some pictures here that the first part of the talk is gonna have some pictures that represent the data that we've collected and analyzed. And then the second half of my brief talk, I hope it's gonna be brief. We'll try to step back a little bit and ask what the larger story is and what implications it has for things we might do right now to make America a better place. So can we have the next slide, Mike? So this is what I'm gonna be talking about today. This is what the book is based on, empirically discovering that America has reached unbelievable bad levels in almost every sphere of American life. In politics, America is now more polarized, almost more polarized than we've ever been in our history. And I'll show you what that looks like in just a second. And we're independently, that we're also economically, almost as economically unequal as we've ever been in American society. And thirdly, had to get independently of all that, or apparently independently, our society, our social connections with one another are weak, we're socially isolated, there's an epidemic of loneliness in America. We don't trust each other. And finally, in cultural terms, we're in an amazingly self-centered narcissistic period in culture, in our history. So the question is, how do we get everybody in America? We don't agree about anything except that we agree, we're in a pickle. And so the first question we asked in the book is how do we get here? And I'm gonna show you some pictures now that just show what's happened along each of these four dimensions. If we have the next slide, Mike, I'll just wanna talk through briefly what this slide looks like because they're all the other graphs are gonna have essentially the same shape. The horizontal axis, you can see begins at the end of the 19th century, 1880, 1890, and it goes all the way over to now, basically 2020. And the vertical axis is a measure of one of those four dimensions. In this case, I've arranged these graphs so up is all always good. And in this case, political comity, that is bipartisanship or being able to reach cross-party collaboration, that's up and down the opposite, simply the opposite is polarization. And so you see already that at the end of the 19th century, America was extremely polarized. American politics were very tribal and there was essentially no collaboration between Republicans and Democrats. And indeed people were so unhappy about that, about the partisan, in that period, we began to have lots of third parties that simply reflected the disfunction of our party system, how polarized the basic two party system was at that point. But then you can see the beginning and at the early years of the 20th century, but around 1900, we suddenly that began to change a little bit. And we began to have somewhat less polarized, somewhat more bipartisan cooperation and somewhat less polarized politics. And as you see, you can go right up, that same trend continues in the 20s and 30s and 40s and into the 50s. And if you pause there just for a second, that very tippy top point there is 1955, the President then was Dwight Eisenhower or Dwight Eisenhower, except for Georgian, Dwight Eisenhower was the least partisan president in American history. And all historians agree about that. I don't say he caused the depolarization or the bipartisanship, he reflected it. And that same level of political, getting along together continued for another, continued into the 60s, but then suddenly surprisingly, the trend change and at the end of the 60s, suddenly we began to have more partisan collect, more partisan fighting, and you can see that that trend then continued for the next 50 years. In other words, for the last 50 years in America from the beginning of the 1970s until the beginning of the 2020s, America has been steadily increasingly polarized politically. And that's all that graph says. And so when you get down to the very bottom of the graph, and in fact, that graph continues, America is even more polarized now than it was when this graph was done in 2015. We're now down at the very bottom. Now I see that already in the chat that there are some people who wanna know about what lies under, what's exactly how we measured this, but I'm gonna pass on that, frankly, because if I spend a lot of time, I'd love to talk about exactly how we measure political polarization for example, because we measured it in about 12 different ways and they all were consistent. But if I stuck to time now to talk about the methodological details of this graph or the subsequent graphs, I'm afraid we wouldn't have time to talk about the substance. So I'm asking pardon for the viewers who would like to know more about the data, if you want to, then that's the time when we can talk about that in Q&A. And I'll talk your ear off to tell you all the exciting ways in which we found to measure political polarization, or let's go to the next slide. The next slide is the economics. And here we see surprisingly, a cylinder graph. Here the data don't begin the hard, best data don't begin until 1913 because that's when the IRS was invented. And that's when we begin to have hard federal data on income distribution. Although we have some, a little less official data on economic inequality going back into the earlier into the 19th century, but you can see we began the 20th century in coming out of what was called the gilded age. That's what Mark Twain called it. And it was called the gilded age because on the upper East side of Manhattan, there were lots and lots of unbelievably rich folks that you can think who their equivalent is now, that it was the Rockefellers and the Carnegies and so on. And you know who the people are like, just like that. Now it was actually just like that as you'll see in a minute. And the Dory side, there are a lot of very poor, uneducated, peasants, or recent peasants who just migrated to the United States from Russia or from Poland or from Italy or from other places around the world. And that gap between those very, very rich folks and the very poor folks was what that defined the gilded age. And if you see parallels between that and now you're getting the point, we kept rising then, we began to be a little more economic equality. As you see in the first decade, the second decade of the 20th century, there was a pause in that trend toward greater equality during the 20s, that's the roaring 20s when the stock market boom gave an added boost or a temporary boost, really to the wealth of the people on the upper East side of Manhattan. But then coming out of that, even before the stock market crash, a long steady growth in equality. And you could see during the late 20s, the 30s, the 40s into the 50s, part of that story is the new deal, but a lot of it isn't just the new deal. And we continue to be very equal up there. We reached probably the maximum equality, now America in a very early occurred when we were all farmers, there was a lot of equality, but in that period, America was relatively, we were not equal of course, but in that point, in that period of our history, we looked like Sweden. We were as equal as Sweden is, then and now, very equal in relative terms.And then we began, however, in the 60s, we began to become a little less equal. And as you can see, the story is a little boring because it begins to go down, down, down, less and less equal in the distribution of income, both before and after taxes, both income and wealth, chances of upward mobility. There are a lot of different measures underneath it. They all show this same inverted U curve, and it dropped steadily growing inequality through the 80s and steadily into the 90s. And through the 20th, the first decade of the 20th century, at the middle, around 2015, it looked for a moment like maybe it finally stopped. And then, but you know, the rest of the story if we continued this graph, everybody in the audience knows what happened in 2015 and now is a massive, further increase in inequality. So the graph now, there's way down at the bottom, and exactly right there, Mike. And so that's what the economic graph looks like. Let's go quickly to our measure of social connections. Here what I have called academically social capital, it just means their social networks, the degree to which we are involved in social networks of all sorts. And you can see that at the end of the 19th century, America was very low in social cohesion. Now, what does that mean in practice? Well, it means things lik, we didn't belong to groups, we didn't go to church, we didn't belong to church. We didn't trust other people, even family formation was very weak. There were a lot of spinsters and bachelors back then who never got married or if they did get married, got married very late. And many, many people back then were childless, remained childless their whole life. And from the family to the church to unions, the union membership looks exactly like this curve, to a membership organizations, to how well you knew your neighbors, how much you trusted other people? All those measures show exactly the same curve. And you can see, we began to have increasing social connections beginning about 1900. Again, you see the pause during the 1920s, but then up at the, then we just took off and probably the greatest civic move in American history from 1940 through the 50s, into the 60s. And right there, we reach a peak of social cohesion. It's harder to measure this than some of the other measures here, but maybe the greatest degree of social cohesion, a broad scale, social cohesion, we were kind of a we at that time, and I'll come back to exactly what that might, what that we meant, but there we are all connected. And then suddenly, almost in synchrony with all these other charts, we begin to become less connected. And that long steady decline continues straight down. By the way, this part of the chart is what actually I wrote about when I wrote about "Bowling Alone". I now see that when I was writing "Bowling Alone," I didn't know half the story. First of all, I didn't know the first half of the story. And secondly, I only knew about social capital, but I now see that same period shows up here as the right-hand side of this social cohesion graph. And it keeps going down, and everybody in the audience now is aware of what is like now, all those measures mean we don't trust one another nearly as much as we used to, people are getting married much later than they and many people are not getting married. I'm not talking about whether they are legally married, I'm talking about whether they have a permanent partnership, many, many fewer people now have a permanent, many fewer people have a permanent partnership. They're forming those partnerships much later in life in their 30s, not in their teens and 20s as Americans were doing up at the peak there, much less social trust, much less organizational membership and so on. Let's have the next slide 'cause I'm conscious that I'm gonna be talking more than I should over these charts. Here we have measure of cultural solidarity. And the idea here is to what extent of Americans in different points in time, to what extent have we felt like we were a we, we shared things in common. We were all in this together, or to what extent were by contrast did we think we're all at this alone? And I'll go for number one. To what extent were we focus very much on individual self-interest as opposed to shared collective interest? And you can see once again, back in the 1890s, America was a very period, was a very socially, well, the dominant public philosophy in that period in the 1880s and 1890s was what was called Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was a knockoff of Darwinism. They have a theory of evolution, although Darwin himself disavowed it. But it basically was the idea that life was a struggle in which the devil take the hindmost, the strong wind, and everybody else falls off the curve. And that we should, that's the way it should be. That was the extreme emphasis on individual interests basically. But then late in the 19th century, that began to change. It would change, especially under the ages of something called the Social Gospel Movement. The Social Gospel Movement began in evangelical churches. It quickly spread beyond evangelical churches and even beyond Christianity and even beyond religion and to all. And it became a much more broadly shared view that well, we ought to take about care of everybody. We ought not to just be looking at ourselves as Darwin's knockoff people would have it, but we should be worried about everybody in the society. And that begins this long upward trend, increasing emphasis on the we, you could call it and reducing emphasis on I on self-interest. And that continues steadily until there you have it up at the very top, in the middle of 1960s, and then we turn, and then we have a long downward trend toward increasing emphasis, individualism, but increasing emphasis on I alone. Trump didn't cause these graph, you can see Trump comes into this chart. It's very late, but Trump perfectly represented the self-centeredness of that, of where we are now in American society. Now let's put all these charts together quickly. You already know that they're pretty similar and that shows you they're essentially the same curve, America from the 1890s to the 1960s, and then back to the 2020s has gone through one huge cycle. When we call it the, I, we, I century in which we began very unequal whenever, what did this mean? We began very unequal, very polarized, very socially disconnected, and very self-centered. And by the middle of the century, by the 1960s, by the time that I and my classmates were at Swarthmore, it just happens that we were there in the period of a greatest emphasis on shared values. But then just after we left, all those graphs, equality polarization, social change, and culture, began to move the other direction. Let's have the next slide, which just shows what this overall curve looks like. And I'm not gonna pause a lot except to say maybe just one or two things here. And then I'll get to the meat of the conversation, not just the descriptive meat, but the moral meat what I wanna persuade of Americans, we should do about all this. So there are simple things you notice about the graph, but the first thing almost everybody notices is the turning point up at the top. And the first question that almost everybody asks and I've already seen it asked two or three or four times in the chat line, well, what happened up there? What happened in the 1960s that causes reversal?
And that's an interesting question. We have lots and lots of debates about that. There's a large literature in America now about that downward curve, what happened to send us down that long curve? Our book is not that, our books thinks that down that path, trying to figure out what happened up there in the 1960s, inevitably leads you to nostalgia about in America, that one, well, you know what Trump was talking about, what he wanted to send us back to that, period. We don't, and we don't want to for a number of reasons, but the most important is it was not nirvana. And in particular, it was not nirvana in racial terms. And for that matter, in general reason, mostly in racial terms. So if you're concerned about race, I promise you, I'm gonna talk about race. It's a big part of our story, but when it comes into the story here is, that's one reason why our book is not trying to say to everybody, oh, let's go back to the 1960s, but there's a deeper reason, because given where we are now, we think it's much more interesting to ask, not how did the "Upswing" end which is what's happened up there, but how did it begin? How did it begin? Because it's those folks over there, that's America over there at the turn of the last century, turn of the 19th century, 19th and 20th century, they're the ones who found themselves in the same predicament that we are today. And indeed, I could go on for hours about how parallel it's astonishing, it's astonishing how parallel the America was in great detail, how America was at the end of the 19th century to how we are now. Indeed, I'm giving away the book, but the first 10 pages of the book, we describe life in America at 1900 and all readers who read the book, I think for this first 10 pages that we're writing about today and only later do we reveal all, no, we've been talking about that period in great detail. So our book is designed to say, what can we learn from that period? It's the period in which the gilded age turns into what was called the Progressive Era. So we have the next slide. Here's what I wanna talk about. I wanna say, what are the lessons from America's last "Upswing?" And this is really the main point of the book. We've written this book to try to offer our ideas about how we could get out of the predicament we have now, not by going back to self imagine gilded age, I mean, golden age in the 60s or 50s or 60s, rather, we wanna talk about what lesson can we learn from that period? And here are six or seven lessons I think are worth thinking about. I'll try to be brief, but each of these is worth thinking about, first of all, if you're a statistician and you're dealing with a lot of curves like this, the first thing you wanna know is, well, what's the leading indicator? 'Cause if you could figure out which of those curves turned first, maybe that would give you a clue as to what caused what and that in turn might give us a clue as how to go about changing the direction. And we had a candidate, I personally fought for a large part of this project, that it must be the case that the economic variables were moving first and that they then triggered growing inequality or equality, growing inequality would trigger changes in all those other. I thought that everything else was just a froth from the waves of economics, that turns out to be the only thing we're sure about is that's not true. All the data makes clear that economic equality is a lagging variable, not a leading variable. So it wasn't true then, and first of all, had to solve the economic problems and everything else would follow. And it won't be true now, indeed, then you ask, well then, what did and it's hard to tell 'cause these curves are all, the technical term is multi-linear, but they all turn at the same time. So it's like watching a flock of the girls at the beach and they all turned at the same time, and, oh my goodness, you wonder who was the leader and that you can't tell 'cause they turned at the same time and these curves are like that. But to the extent that we can pull it apart, probably shockingly, the leading variable, the ones that seems to have been necessary for everything else to happen. And that to create that upswing were the moral and cultural variables that I talked a little bit about earlier, the folks who came into a society, that was social Darwinist, and then began to talk about how this is a moral issues, we've got problems that we, we have a moral obligation to the least well off in America and in the world indeed, this beginning of the evangelical Christians because they began reading what did the Bible say. And you read the Sermon on the mountain, Jesus is talking all the time about how rich people can't get into heaven, but the job for Christians he said is to help the poorest on earth. And so these moralizing evangelical protestants, that idea quickly spread to all the other religions. And as I said earlier, beyond just religion, that turns out to be the crucial part, the initial part, at least of the progressive era. By the way, we should pause for a second. When I say progressive in this context, I'm using a capital P. Nowadays, the word Progressive tends to mean with a small P, the people on the far left of the political spectrum. But in that period, progressive didn't have a part of the in context, indeed in 1910, all three of the major political parties call themselves progressive, the candidates called themselves progressives. The Democrats had Woodrow Wilson, the Republican had Taft, and the Independence, Teddy Roosevelt had, he was a progressive, he was arch progressive. So they were all progressives, and they were not progressive, not simply progressive in the sense that we use that term now. So that's the first thing, culture and moral value, value change as we think to come first, I'm talking by the way about this book that I've written with my co-author, Shaylyn Romney Garrett, who can't be with us tonight, but who's especially articulate talking about these moral issues. A second big thing is that if you look at who the progressives were, who caused this pivot, this changed, who brought it about? They were all young people, virtually all of them were under 30, some of the much younger. And we don't always realize that because we think of Jane Addams, for example, one of the leading progressives, when she got her Nobel prize as she did for founding Hull House in Chicago. But once she got that, and she's an old lady in the pictures at that time, but if you actually ask, well, when did she do the work that got her a Nobel prize? That she did when she was in her 20s. And that's true across the board, we show in great later, in this section of the book that essentially, all of the leading progressives were very young people, and Theodore Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest president we ever had. And even he was not that young, but certainly, all the other people were really young people. There are a lot of other things to say about youth, and one reason why are changes like this led by young people? Well, it's interesting to think about that. I think analytically, the reason that revolutions are often led by young people is they're the ones who are able to think outside the box. People, older people back in that day and bolder people today like me can see the problem because we've lived through this massive change, but we're not the people who can come up with solutions to the problem. The new ideas are gonna have to come from people, they're gonna have to come from my grandchildren and from the youngest people in the audience today. It doesn't have have to come now from people like Greta too and like these kids from the Dorothy Douglas, what's the name of that?
Rosemary Putnam Marjory Stoneman.
Robert Putnam Marjory Stoneman, sorry, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who are leading the Anti-Gun Movement. That's what it will look like. That's what it looked like then, it was really young people who led this, that's the third big lesson. The fourth lesson is that one of the ways, one of the techniques that they use was to build associations, to build connections, associations maybe, there's a word that sounds a little old fashioned, but maybe nowadays we use something like relationships, but building connections among people was really important to them. And they created a whole new set of organizations. And this was discussed a little bit in "Bowling Alone," essentially, most of the organizations that were civic organizations from bowling leagues to the rotary club, to women's groups, to men's groups throughout the 20th century, almost all of them were founded in a very few years at the beginning of the 20th century. And they're now of course, no longer what we need, but they lasted pretty long, and they lasted through that whole long upswing. The fifth lesson that I wanna emphasize here is that, this progressive revolution was led from the bottom up, not the top down, these young reformers, now think of young reformers who are morally engaged and not just at shaking fingers to other people, but morally engaged in their moral responsibility, that's important, it wasn't that they were just shaking their fingers at their rich folks. They were saying, we have some, we're implicated in this. And I think if we have a new Progressive Era now as I hope we may, I hope that a part of that will be not just casting blame on other folks. Of course, there's a lot of blame to go around, but also thinking about what obligations we have to ourselves, what implications our own lives have had getting us to this state of affairs we were in today. So the movement was I said lead from the bottom up, and by bottom, I mean, in tenement houses and in neighborhoods and in cities and in States, almost all the action in the early years of the Progressive Era was at the grass roots level. Later on, it would go to the national level. Basically, what the New Deal then was to carry it to the national level, all these innovations that had happened at the local level, in the Progressive Era. And I mean things like regulation of monopolies and labor laws and various kinds of childcare legislation and so on, all those things have been tried out in the Progressive Era, it stayed in localities and then later on as they had to move to the national level, I wanna quickly give you one example of that grassroots of what happened because it's a very dramatic one, probably the most important social development, policy development in the course of the 20th century actually, was the creation of high schools, that is schools which every kid in town could go to just by virtue of being a kid and free. We often think, well, nobody hadn't been in high schools. God must have been in a high schools, but that's not true. High schools were invented for the first time in world history. In America, in 1910, in some small towns and villages in Iowa and Kansas. Now, there had been private secondary schools before then and there'd been an occasionally like the Boston Latin schools that very, very talented people can go to. But for the first time ever in the world, it began in these little towns in Iowa and Kansas. And there, the people said, this is a new world, we gotta be willing to only pony up so that our kids could get an education that will enable them to live in this new age that we're about to enter with the industrial revolution. And the idea was terrific. It went viral within 20 years of those high schools appearing in small towns in the Midwest in the middle of nowhere, within 20 years, every place in America had a high school 'cause it was such a great idea. And that intervention accounts for most of the economic growth in the entire 20th century, that's another story, have been told about it. But it was a big deal, but the most important thing is, it did not come from Washington, it did not come from Harvard, it did not even come from Swarthmore, it came from little ordinary people in little towns. And that I think is a key part of this. It was led at the grass roots, quickly down on the next last point, which is the leadership, no, no, no, I'm sorry, I'm on the thing about charismatic leadership, and that's only to say politicians were a lagging variable here. The politicians, the story of politicians in this case is that they saw a parade or they ran out in front it, that's basically what Teddy Roosevelt did, but the politicians were late to the scene, and we do not think that it's gonna be a politician who brings us out of our current state. We think in fact, that if America is gonna get out of the point we're in right now, it's gonna require a lot of activity at the grassroots by ordinary people, especially by ordinary young people who have been mobilized by a moral awakening. Now, I've been talking about all the good lessons of this upswing, but I've been reading the chat line and I know that all of you are aware that last point, I hope we'll have time to talk about this at great length. The last point is the we of that, we that they moved forward was not inclusive enough. It's a complicated story, and I'll say more about it. If we have time, I can even show you some graphs. But the basic idea is that we, was largely a wide we, the we that began to be emphasized increasingly over the first half of the 20th century was largely a wide we, and mostly, a male we, although the story about the role of women in the Progressive Era is more complicated in that because of course that's when the first feminist revolution occurs right then. And partly, as a result of the Progressive Movement, that is the Women's Suffrage. So there's a whole chapter in our book about gender and the IVI for, but I'm not gonna try to talk about that, but race is a big deal. It really is the enduring black mark on the Progressive Era is that a lot of the progressives were racist. And for sure, Shaylyn and I have tried to make this very clear, not only in the writing of the book, but also we had an op-ed in the New York Times a couple of months ago, exactly on the issue of race and try to make clear why, what are the lessons you learned from the Progressive Era is this time around, it has to be a more inclusive we. Now, for some audiences, I have to spell out why that's true. I dealt it for Swarthmore, hence I have to spell out why we need to have a much more inclusive we in America right now. But for that, if we just move to the last slide and knowing that I'm gonna get to the issues of race, this is the core argument of our book, that it comes from Teddy Roosevelt just after he took office as president. On the whole and in the long run, we shall go up or down together. And we really believe that. Mike, that's it. I don't know whether you think we ought to move directly. I've been overwhelmed by the number of questions about race, not disappointed, of course, you knew that I wanted to talk about it, but should we go to questions or should I talk about race?
Mike Dennis I'm looking at a bunch of questions on race like Sharon asking, to what extent was the mid-century we, predicated on whiteness, why is keeping black people out? How did your data look at this? What kind of research findings did you have? So I think it'd be great to jump into that.
Robert Putnam Okay, so hold on just a second here. I've said the most important thing to say, which is the Progressive Era was not sufficiently attentive to racial inclusiveness, really important point, but I now wanna get, show you, that conclusion is actually a little. When you look at the data, it's a little more complicated. Let's have the next slide, please. This is not data, this is not data, this is what many people think. And maybe including some people in the audience think is the history of black, white equality over this period. The access is the same as we talked about before from 1900 to 2020. And if you look over there, I repeat, this is not actually the fact, but people assume in the, I assume before I began doing this research, that basically, until the Civil Rights Movement, race relations and racial equality was essentially nothing. And we were way below and basically the blacks and other non-whites were treated terribly and unchangeably until the lightening strike of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, and then everything got better and steadily better. And there are a few things that are like that, that is some things do look like that. One of the things that looks like that is well, inclusion, really in a way, inclusion of black professionals, if you look at the fraction of the relative number of lawyers and doctors, or for that matter, entertainers who are public in the broader public entertainers. It looks much like this, and this is the first qualification I wanna say, that I think you may find shocking, but maybe also instructive. Could we have the next slide? Because this slide, the next slide, this is a real slide. It's not all that you need to be concerned about. I've already told you, there are a lot of things we need to be concerned about, especially about inclusion, but this graph is also maybe interesting. This is a summary graph, in that sense, it's like a lot of the other graphs that I've shown you of black-white material equality. This shows trends in life expectancy, infant mortality, high school graduation, college graduation, income earnings per worker, home ownership, even as it turns out, things like registering to vote and turn out, black turnout. So the graph looks, this is what the graph looks like. And there are several surprising things about it. Let's first of all, look at the left-hand side of the graph. By the way, first of all, note that approximate equality is way up at the top. The top up there is 1.0, that's when there's, whenever we reached that, there will be no differences between blacks, on average, between blacks and whites in their life expectancy, high school graduation, income, home ownership, and so on. We never get that. So we never really get close to it, but in terms of trends, most of the progress upward towards greater equality occurs before the Civil Rights Revolution. Look at that. This is gain increase, these are real numbers, increasing, what it means is increasing life expectancy of blacks. So here we're looking only at black 'cause black data are the only really strong, non-white data we have over this whole century. Now think what this means? Life expectancy for everybody was going up. Life expectancy, even white was going up during that period. It was going up even faster for blacks. That is the relative standing of blacks even though the whole country was moving up, blacks were moving up even faster. And that's true for life expectancy in high school graduation and income and home ownership. And we'll talk in a minute about how that could possibly be, but that's the facts. And actually, it's not about experts, especially among black experts. That part of the graph is not controversial, it's factually true. But then even more surprising in a way is after the lightning bolt on Civil Rights Revolution, it stops. We take the foot off the gas. In America, over the last 50 years has had very little progress in black-white equality. And indeed by some measures, there's actually been a decline in the relative standing of blacks. For example, the average home ownership in America today among blacks relative is, the average home ownership period among blacks in America is less than it was at the time the Fair Housing Act was passed in 19, whatever it was 1965. So if you look at this chart, it looks like what in the world happened? All the progress is happening before we have the Civil Rights Revolution. And after the revolution, after the Civil Rights Revolution, it all stops. Well, let's talk just a little bit about what could happen explain that. It's a really interesting question, I think, but I also don't on the conscious of the fact that I'm overstaying my welcome here in terms of my graphs. But now let's look at that first step. How could it be that blacks were getting in terms of material measures, this was not inclusion, this was still a very segregated society. So I'm talking about equality here, material equality. And I'm not talking about really culture, really even, I'm not for a moment saying that in that earlier period, blacks were culturally part of the we, or even becoming part of the we during that period. But in terms of their material well-being, I think it's interesting. And the reason that there's part of that story is what's called the Long Civil Rights Revolution. Historians know that the Civil Rights Revolution actually began way early, the Civil Rights Revolution most casual Americans, especially whites do not know that the Civil Rights Revolution was underway in the 1930s, but the second and raving really more of an important thing is this was being done by blacks themselves migrating from the South. The greatest contribution to black welfare in the 20th century was this massive movement. The great migration from rural South to the urban North in the period roughly speaking from 1910 until roughly 1940 or 1950. And it's not that there wasn't any segregation or there wasn't any discrimination in the North, there was, it was just a lot less than in the South. So large numbers of black, and black people know this story. If you look Michelle Obama's autobiography, she describes exactly this, her grandparents moving up to Chicago and beginning to narrow the gap. And then her parents further narrowing that gap, and then she of course, unusually just become creatures of the top of the pyramid. That story is a powerful part of the black story in America. And almost all blacks know that, but very few whites know that. Now go to the second half of this curve, which is that everything stopped after 1970. And again, what blacks for sure know that, and many, many whites don't know that, some progressive whites do know it. And again, you have to ask, well, why was that? Now, here it gets a little bit ambiguous. Part of this is just white backlash and white backlash clearly sets in whites were in favor of equality, until they weren't, basically in the Public Medieval is very interesting support for various kinds of civil rights and other policies designed to equalize the races in the 60s was very strong until actually you got to having to do it by, for example, actually having desegregation or actually having open houses or whatever. And then there was the sharp backlash and that changed the politics of that curve. But the other part of the story here is that's when America is increasingly becoming an I society. It's not an accident we think, that during the period when America was becoming a we society, we actually did gradually widen our we, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that America in the 1960s was a paradise. It wasn't, and above all, it wasn't for blacks. So I'm sure saying that, but I'm also saying that if you think about trends, we were making better trends during America's we effort than we have during America's I effort. And those are two things are connected, obviously, but now I wanna ask, and somebody asks about this, how does this whole story compare to the Black Lives Matter Movement and George Floyd? And it has a direct, I hope you all now see exactly why this graph explains, if you didn't need an explanation, for why the Black Lives Matter Movement. I'm talking about the one December, not the one that happened two or three years earlier in outside of St. Louis. And now look, why did the Black Lives Matter Movement gets started? Of course, it was partly police brutally. And that's what we're hearing about this we, but it wasn't only about that, it was also about the fact that all those black young people who are out demonstrating and not riding and not doing damage, but demonstrating, they know perfectly well that there has been no progress. None of the civil rights promises that were made back in the 1960s, none of them had been fulfilled. And they know that, whites don't know that. So whites said, wait a minute, why didn't we fix this problem back in the 1970s? Blacks know that we didn't. And so a large part of why race has been a problem this year, there are a lot of reasons, of course, but a large part of why it's been a problem this year is whites and blacks are still living in different histories, but white mental history is the other one that I showed you just before, that is the hockey stick and which it all began to get better once the Civil Rights Movement, but blacks know that's not our history, our real history is this history in which we stopped making progress after the Civil Rights Movement. Okay, so I wanna now stop, respond to other questions, there are a lot of these questions, like what happened to the 60s? And I'm happy to talk more about this racial thing, but I know we've gone on for a long time and we don't have that many. You don't have that, but I've got time forever, but Mike, why don't you take control now and bring us to other questions?
Mike Dennis Thank you, Bob. And I'm hoping you might have a couple minutes extra after our eight o'clock. I'm sorry, nine o'clock ending time. One question, I'm gonna collapse a couple of questions here from Doug Perkins and Tennyson T's about the impact of electronic media and social media and the information technology revolution of the last 20 years, has that made a negative or positive difference in American's ability to come together again?
Robert Putnam I could write a whole book about that question. Indeed I just published a 20th Anniversary Edition of "Bowling Alone" which basically said, we're losing all our face-to-face ties. And immediately after that, their reaction was well, we hadn't lost social capital, we just turned into virtual social capital. So in the last chapter of the second of the 20th Anniversary Edition, just that, just published just now which you've got on your local news stance is a discussion of that question. And it's an interesting question. There's a lot to say, but I'll say very simply. For a long while, there was a long period of cyber optimism in which people said we've outgrown our need for face-to-face ties, we can just do it all and it's going to be wonderful. Some of you in the room maybe if you remember that when we said the cyber, the unified, the virtual world is gonna be border free and we're gonna have a universal democracy 'cause we can all talk to one another and there's gonna be a universal understanding and trust and so on, that extreme cyber optimism lasted about two or three years, but the idea that virtual ties could replace human ties, face-to-face ties lasted for longer. And it basically, lasted until I would say last November. And by that I mean, this pandemic has taught all of us that Zooming with grandma is not the same thing as hugging grandma, and we all know that. And that's why all of us wanna end this term, pandemic. If face-to-face ties weren't better, the things that I talk about, face-to-face ties weren't better, we wouldn't be having all these people wanna get out and do it face-to-face, it's because… So there's a ton more to besaid, there's a lot of evidence. And to some extent, we're gonna get the kind of internet we want and maybe we could use the internet to strengthen our face-to-face ties. But the internet is, I now say with firm conviction and without actually much fear of contradiction because we've all lived through this, the internet will never replace face-to-face human ties. Is that the answer? I hope I was answering the question people asked?
Mike Dennis Yeah, thank you. Another kind of interesting set of questions we've had have been about the impact of various wars in which the US has participated, not like Chapman asking, Jack Riggs asking, and how have those wars affected these curves and affected like white parity?
Robert Putnam Well, white parity is a different question, but let me talk about the curves, 'cause that's a pretty straightforward question. It looks like, it must be World War II, that's what people look at that graph. And let me be clear, there was an effect, a visible effect in our data of World War II on equality and on partisanship and on social connections, and philanthropy and so on, there was an effect. It was a small effect and it went away quickly. But the reason that war can't be, especially World War II can't be this trend, and if you think about the graph for a moment, the trend was going up 30 years, at least before there was any war, before there was World War and the trend had been going up, it can't have been World War I that did it 'cause World War I is what brought the Progressive Era to an end. So you can't indict World War I for both ending the Progressive Era and starting the Progressive Era, that doesn't fit. And the details also don't fit, but World War II comes 20 or 30 years after the cause. And so it doesn't make sense to say that the cause was coming 30 years before its effect and similarly, the other side, the curve kept going up for 25 years after World War II. So it can't, that's the short answer to the question. The data, there is a modest effect that you can see in the data of World War II, but basically World War II can't possibly, it can't explain why the graph kept going up for 25 years after World War II.
Mike Dennis Well, I'm following up on that a little bit. And in talking about wars, a couple of questions about the Vietnam War and I think it relates to the 60s. You were at Swarthmore during the 60s and essentially, how did the late 60s revolution affected social morals? How did that contribute to the downward trend in the curve? What did you see in your research, and what did you see at Swarthmore?
Robert Putnam So, okay, I wanted to talk about this, partly because this is a Swarthmore audience, but I wanna speak in a little great length here about that. And it's all my time, this is all penalty time. So if you'll be willing to stick with me and especially if the class of 63 will be, any of them or 62 or 64 will stick with me, I'm speaking to you now, or I'm speaking to everybody, of course. So let me not be academic for a moment. Well, maybe, no, let me be personal. And I'm talking personally, but I'm also talking about everybody in the class of 63, and most everybody in the class of 62 and 64. You can see from the curves, we entered America, we entered college at the peak of America's we period. And we didn't know that, of course, nobody knows what kind of period it is when they're growing up. But we lived through this increasing emphasis on we, including I should say conformity which is part of an emphasis on we. So some people have talked to you about McCarthyism and that McCarthyism is part of this story. It wasn't great. I'm not saying that community is always great. And as it happens in high school, I was once expelled from high school, for saying something to the teacher, the McCarthy I teacher thought was vaguely pro-communist. It was crazy. All I said was "Yes, and my hair is red too." And I was expelled. So don't tell me about McCarthy 'cause I know about McCarthyism, and it's a facet, it's the downside of too much community. But apart from that side story, America and we, my class had come of age in a very we society. And that trend continued through our stay there. But by the second half of the 60s, America had changed and Swarthmore had changed. Swarthmore very vividly changed in the 64, 65, 66 period. Courtney Smith was presiding over a wonderful community in the early 60s. Courtney Smith was, it's very controversial why he died, but it was during the black protest of the late 60s that this previously sainted resident of Swarthmore had a heart attack and died in the result of that.So this broken back period in American history was perfectly reflected as Swarthmore. And so let me just be a little personal about that. In my sophomore year in 1961, the fall of 1961, I had to take a distribution class in political science. I, at that point was a scientist, actually, probably a mathematician or a physicist or something, but I had to take a course in policy. So I took it, and it was a class at, this sounds like I'm changing your subject, I'm not changing the subject. This was a class that met at 11, at 12, we got out, it was lunchtime. So a group of this policy class began having lunch together including this kind of cute, at that point, you would have said co-ed who also joined the group. And so we began hanging out, remember this is the early 60s, so hanging out did not have any salacious overtones. It just meant we would have lunch together along with the other folks. Well, we started hanging out together a little more and our first date was what was called Sadie Hawkins Day. And she, Rosemary who's sitting right beside me here, so she's gonna be the truth teller if I get any of this story wrong. Our very first date was she took me to a John Kennedy rally because that was the election of 19, the fall of 1960. And I was a Democrat and are saying-
Rosemary Putnam Republican.
Robert Putnam I was Republican, she's correcting me. I was a Republican. She took me to this Democratic rally to try to move me in the right direction. I was a Nixon fan actually. And our second day was I took her to an Nixon motorcade. It was going down just at the foot of this lower campus. One thing led to another, but keep your imaginations under control, this is still the early 60s, so nothing really dramatic happened, but we decided would be fun. We'd get on a train at 30th Street Station, and we did on the late afternoon of January 20th, 1961, do your history correctly now. And we got off at the main station in Washington, DC. And the next morning, we stood in the snow on the East front of the Capitol, which is where inaugurations were then held. Literally, I could take you to the very tree under which we stood 'cause it was a very dramatic moment for me personally. And I heard Kennedy say with my own ears, I heard Kennedy say, "Ask not what your country can do, ask what you can do for your country." And I thought he was speaking to me personally, this is an adolescent, right? A very naive adolescent from the middle of a bit of a small town in Ohio. But I thought he had said, you, Bob, you've got to ask what you would do for the country. So I figured, oh my God, I'm reasonably smart, I should maybe become an academic and think about how to contribute to America. That moment I'm being a little melodramatic, but it's true, I apologize for this. That's the reason we're having this Zoom meeting right now. The only reason why I ended up doing my career was because of that moment with this woman sitting standing in my side and still at my side, whatever that was, where we are now, that's God, 70 years later, 60 years later, long time ago. So, okay, that's my personal story of how the 60s affected me. And it didn't affect everybody that way, but it is certainly true that the people of my, the earliest part of the 60s from Swarthmore all lived through a period in which we were all committed reformers, wanted to change America and thought we could. We thought because that was the early part of the Civil Rights Movement and lots of my classmates, sadly, not me, but lots of my classmates went to Chester or they went down to the South and did bus rides and we all thought we were on the side of history. We thought another way we put this, is we thought Kennedy was sounding revelry for a new period in American history, but it turned out this is what our data show. It was not revelry, it was taps. America was just about to turn away from a world in which you asked, what you could do for the country. And we were to turn into a period which has not lasted ever since then in which you were invited to ask what the country could do for you, but not what you could do for anybody else, that moment, and that phrase by Kennedy captures, that it's not just an accident, it captures that moment of switch, that pivot in American life. Now, there are a lot of other things to say about the 60s, a lot of other things to say about Swarthmore indeed in that period, America more generally, now I'm being back in academic telling you about the history of the 60s. America enters the 60s in this great upward sweep. The culmination of our we, actually, and that's not just rhetoric because those were the communes. And those were, everybody thinking we could fix America and we were all very optimistic. We were headed up, but then we did kind of a back flip. And the second half of the 60s, we moved into very much I direction. And this is not Bob but I'm talking, this is all the historians of the 60s, all of them agree that there is that broken back period. I'm now blanking on the name of the leading historian of the 60s who wrote a book called "Years of Hope, Days of Rage." And it is the early part of the 60s was hope, and the later part of the 60s was the rage. And I don't think it was Taylor Branch, it's another person that his name I'm forgetting. And another famous writer wrote in the 1970s, the beginning of 1970s, we've just been through a we decade, but we're now already in an I decade and calls the 60s and 70s the I decade, he's talking about the second half of the 60s. So I'm thinking about the 60s being a broken back, that's what happened. And it just happened that Rosemary and I and the classes of 60, the 63 people were there just before the peak turned. And the people after us, the people at Swarthmore in 1970 were living in a completely different America. And it had peak really different. Yeah, Todd Gill, thank you, Diane, Todd Gitlin is the author of the "Years of Hope, Days of Rage." So now why did it pivot like that? Actually, nobody really knows.
That's the honest answer is there are lots of different theories as to why the 60s happened. And I can, someplace here, I've got a list of all the different theories that people have of what caused the 60s. Some people think it was caused by the assassinations because it was triggered, maybe we don't even remember this assassination, but the assassination of Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, some people think, but not everybody that was caused by Vietnam, the Vietnam War triggered it. Some people think it was a student upheavals that triggered it, that's a popular view among students. Some people think the Civil Rights Movement started it, although that doesn't actually quite fit. The Civil Rights Movement actually began a little earlier. Some people talk about the Neolithic violence of the 60s, which is the Patty Hearst, the Madden's Manson killings. Some people think it was caused by the pill. I'm not making this up, people think the pill caused the sexual revolution, and the sexual revolution caused the 60s. And some people think that it was caused by Nixon and Watergate. Although Nixon and Watergate actually happens in the 70s. And some people think it was caused by the oil embargoes and the stagflation, although that also happens after the 60s, the short answer is in my view, it wasn't any single crisis. Different people have different stories. I think it was the concatenation of all of those crises, which all, they weren't related. The pill was not related to the oil embargo and Vietnam was not related to the assassinations, very distantly, but what I'm trying to say is a bunch of unrelated facts all happened to come together and turned us in the other direction. That's as good as I could do on why it happened. And I've gone on way too long, although we're still in penalty time. And you can use some of that for other people's questions here.
Mike Dennis Well, thank you for that. If you had time for one more question, I think there are a couple of questions here just about, and I think they're coming from a point of hope. Are we entering a new upswing?
Robert Putnam Yes.
Mike Dennis I'll share Al Weller was saying, do you see the diversity of Black Lives Matter protesters, the large number of voters in the election, the kind of broad support for taking the country in a new direction after the election as indicators that we are going to be approaching a new upswing. So I wonder if you could touch on that a little bit with your extra penalty minutes, thank you.
Robert Putnam So, I wanna say a couple of, thanks for that last question because actually that's what I would have chosen as the last question. Not that I don't want the others, but if I had where I wanna end this. And where Shaylyn and I really, look, this book was written, not as a bit of descriptive history, we try to be accurate in our history, very accurate ain our history. But that's not why we wrote the book. We wrote the book because both Shaylyn and I want to change America. We wanna pivot to a new America. Now remember, pivot means you change direction, but you're still, a pivot and you're still standing in the same place. I never have thought the movement to we didn't happen overnight. It took decades for that whole thing to play it up. But what happened in that Progressive Era is they pivoted and that's true now, I do not think that we're gonna have nirvana no matter what happens. We're not gonna have nirvana in America, probably in my lifetime, 'cause it will take decades for that to happen. But the pivot could happen now. And indeed, I think the pivot, this is not any longer, this is partly Bob Putnam hopeful revolutionary thinking, we could be in the, I think we really are in the early years of the New Progressive Era, or we're on the brick of it. And it's part of it because of what's happened over the last year. I don't know if I said to you all. This book was finished at the publisher last January and that is a we, a year ago, January. So the authors of this book know nothing about the pandemic. They know nothing about the Black Lives Matter move. They know nothing about George Floyd, the authors when they wrote it, they knew nothing about the economic collapse, worst since the great depression by some managers. They know nothing about the politics of the period, they don't even know that Biden is gonna become the nominee 'cause this all happening back there. Biden was the nominee when we were finishing this book and we didn't know what the politics of the fall was gonna be. And we didn't know the, so the authors of this book do not know the outcome of the election. They do not know about the stolen election. They do not know about January 6th. They do not know, there's a ton that these others don't know including they don't know, they know nothing about the first stimulus package and the second stimulus package and so on. And yet I claim all of those things are helpfully interpreted in the light of this book that was written before anybody even knew that. So that's my astonishing claim. I claim the book knew nothing, about, what's her name, the Swedish girl from the?
Rosemary Putnam Bara Tumba.
Robert Putnam Bara Tumba, there's so much, this happened in the last year and a half that the book didn't even know about. So let me say just a couple of things about why I'm optimistic. I do think that there is, at least we're on the verge of a youth, of an unprecedented youth involvement in public affairs. I'm not sure about that actually, but certainly, the turnout, youth turn out this year was consistent with that. And indeed, it's not an accident the national turnout this year was as high as it's ever been and except in when 1912, right at the Progressive Era, these are not accidental things. We're now at a level of mobilization that was required for the Progressive Era, and that will be required for a New Progressive Era. That's about youth. It will require the new, the pivot will require lots of grassroots activity. And I think that's happening actually. I think this is another whole story, another whole lecture, but I think around America, right now, there are a lot of good things happening. And not just in part of the Germans. I'm a Democrat and I've never have hidden that I'm a Democrat, but I think there are a lot of good things that happen. I'm not talking about the visible national politics which is completely blocked, but that was true the last time, the last time national politics was completely blocked, that's why it was those small towns in Iowa and Kansas that came up with the idea of the high school. And that's why this time, the really good ideas for lots of problems that we have not yet solved. We've got a lot of them here. Public policy problems haven't solved. I'm optimistic that some of those solutions will come from the bottom up. You can go through each of the lessons that we drew and we drew before knowing about what happened in 2020 and 2021 that I think apply here. But I do wanna step back. And just in closing, say something about very specifically why we wrote this book. We wrote the book because we were not, Mike, worried about persuading people of your age, from our point of view, you're too old to be interesting to us. No, I mean, remember, we wanna change America and we think that people over 30 are just kind of like, they're not gonna do it. And probably there's gonna be people even younger that, it's probably gonna be my grandchildren who are themselves actually not accidentally in their early 20s, that's the age that we wrote, we wrote the book for my grandchildren. I'm being deadly serious now, think of those kids. There are people who are in Swarthmore College now, but there are few of them unless they happen to be some college students are watching this, they're not watching this Zoom, everybody watching this is just too old to be from my point of view what this book, is written for is written for young people. And remember, those are people who have, their entire lives have been spent in this downward spiral of growing inequality, growing polarization, growing social isolation, growing I-ness. They did not cause that, young people today did not cause that, they're way too early, but they've never lived through anything, but it and so they have every right to be cynical. They would perfect as did the Progressive Era kids book. These young kids under 125 years ago, they were in the same situation. They had not caused all that silliness of the gilded age, but they were stuck with trying to fix it. And so our purpose of trying to write this book was to say to these young people, don't be cynical. We're not trying to change the content of your views, we say we know why you might not wanna be engaged, we know why you're cynical. We know as bad as anybody why you're cynical. I can tell you historically while you're cynical, you shouldn't be, but please don't because we're saying, we know that people who are in exactly your situation, exactly in your situation, by working together, it was those young people by their actions who turned the corner, who saved America. I have a tendency to hide, I just speaking hyperbolically, but I mean that they turned America from an awful situation, awful in every respect toward an America that was better. And this group of young people now, I'm very optimistic, I'm very optimistic about that. Not least because so many of them were out marching last, whatever it was, June, July during the Black Lives Matter Movement nationwide. That was, from my point of view, the most hopeful thing about this whole summer, was that there were a lot of, of course it was important, there were a lot of black kids out there, but if this is gonna not repeat the 60s and the backlash and so on, it's really important that there were a lot of white kids out there. And a lot of white, older people, but the crucial, but it goes the white, young kids. So I'm optimistic in that respect. And here's why I'm actually optimistic, I've got an op-ed that may come out in the New York Times in which I say, and this is true. I am more optimistic about America's future now, today, than I have ever been in my life because I can see signs of a growing moral concern about America. That's what it takes. It doesn't take unanimity on policy issues, it takes a widespread sense that all this stuff actually involves obligations we have to other people, that's the crucial thing. And I see signs of that, actually. You putting some signs of like the Reverend, sorry, what's his name, Rosemary?
Rosemary Putnam Reverend Barber.
Robert Putnam Reverend Barber, William Barber who's a black preacher who's leading marches around America, not just on black issues, but trying to get Americans to see that what's at stake here, our moral issues. So that's why I'm optimistic. Here's the last point, and it's gonna sound like a very academic term, agency. What we've discovered in doing this book is the importance of agency, agency just means individuals can choose, they can choose the history that they write. We are not condemned by history, we're not. You could have thought at that period in the turn of the last century, in the Progressive Era, you could have thought lots of people did think we were just doomed to continue this ever downward. That's the way history was, our technology was we were just gonna ever become ever more unequal and ever more polarized, blah, blah, blah. But the progressives had a different view. And indeed, they described it very specifically. One of the leading young progressive, Walter Lippmann was the young progressive at that point wrote a book called "Drift or Mastery" "Drift or Mastery" and drift meant we can drift along with the flow of history, that's what everybody else was doing, or we could try to reach out and master these tides and turn this country in a different direction. It wasn't guaranteed. There was no historical determinism, but it was also not foreclosed. And what it took was decisions by individual human beings especially young people to change America. And so if I had a pulpit right now, what I would be saying to Swarthmore students, and to young people, everybody's across the country, you didn't cause this problem, my generation caused this problem, but you have it in your power, you do have it in your power to change us our direction. And all you have to do is to think if we all stick together and we work in a moral direction, and I'm not even talking about, this is not about non-Trump, Trump, by the way is a side story for me. Obviously, as a student, he's really bad but from an analytic point of view, Trump comes into the story so late, he can't possibly have influenced this, he is entering the White House, had nothing to do with these trends, and his leaving his White House or leaving politics will have nothing to do with it. Historically, we're stuck where we are, and therefore, we can't write off Trump's supporters because they're gonna be here long after he's gone. And so what I'm saying to young people is, it may get worse. I can't really do much about it, but it's gonna get worse. You can, if you get engaged and look at the lessons of those other folks, look at the lessons from that earlier period that are in this book, sounds like you're trying to increase the sales, but I'm not, I'm trying to change. I want to change America, damn it. That's what Swarthmore taught me to wanna do. I'm sorry to go on so long here, I'm done.
Mike Dennis Thank you, Bob, that was very powerful. I think a very powerful way to end, and thank you for your words, your insights, your inspiration to help ground us in a better understanding of our country, our current situation. And I think I'm more hopeful way forward. So thank you again. I'd encourage all of you to go out and pick up a copy of this book at your local bookstore, "The Upswing". Thank you all for joining today. All of you alumni, I'm really glad to have such a great turnout, and thank you as well to Gina's and Gorrow, fellow alumni council members for setting this up and Lisa Schafer for the flawless support and help this evening. So look forward to seeing you from all of us in the alumni council in the future.
Robert Putnam And I have one last question, sorry, before we go, I'm now reading the chat line. I finally can just take time to read the chat line. There are a lot of chats, including a lot of chats from dear friends that I have not seen for 60 years. And since it's recording, my question is, it was being recorded. Can I, or other people get a copy, I don't care about other people, can I get a copy of the chat line so that I can then, I'll know who the people are? And if I get a copy of it, I could respond to at least many of these and I can also learn what mistakes I made. I'm sure there are a lot of those in there too.
Mike Dennis As part of the older generation, I may not be able to answer the technology question, but I did see that Lisa said she can get the chat to you. And hope for all of you, this will be up on the website, the recording will be there, so we'll get it to you, Bob.
Robert Putnam Thanks again, this is a total treat for me as you probably could tell.
Mike Dennis Wonderful, thank you, everyone, and wishing everyone a good evening tonight. Thank you again, Bob.