Gutmann promotes release of new book
Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson appeared at the National Constitution Center on Wednesday
May 2, 2012, 10:33 pm·
Henry Chang | DP
In an auditorium inside the National Constitution Center Wednesday evening, about 180 people listened eagerly as Penn President Amy Gutmann and Harvard University professor Dennis Thompson spoke about the state of American democracy in 2012.
Gutmann and Thompson were joined by NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, a 1967 College graduate, in a discussion that centered around the release of their recent book, The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It.
The three participated in a “Join The Conversation” talk — a discussion that allowed Gutmann and Thompson to answer in-depth questions about the arguments they put forth in the book.
The Spirit of Compromise discusses the importance, but lack, of compromise in United States government, and tries to find reasons for it.
“Compromise has seen better days in this country,” said Gutmann, who plans to donate all of her profits from the book’s sale to undergraduate scholarships at Penn. “Government has seen better days in this country … There are many causes of this problem, but our diagnosis is that we’re living in the era of a permanent campaign where every day is effectively election day.”
Gutmann and Thompson also humorously acted out a conversation between House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and journalist Lesley Stahl, during which both emphasized the need for political compromise today.
Throughout the night, the two touched upon issues like the ongoing healthcare debate, which both agreed has prompted overly partisan responses and actions from both sides of the aisle.
“Extremism makes compromise impossible,” Thompson said of healthcare reform.
College senior Julia Wong, who was one of about 60 Penn students in attendance, found out about the talk through the Political Science listserv.
“I’ve always been interested in learning more about compromise and, knowing this was an event that Amy Gutmann would be at, I wanted to come,” she said.
College junior Scott Lee also enjoyed the experience of listening to Gutmann, Thompson and Mitchell.
“On a shallow level, I really enjoyed the presentation because it was really fun to hear Dr. Gutmann speak about something that wasn’t about Penn and kind of hear what she’s really known for,” he said. “It was exciting to see that.”
“I’m very excited to read her book now,” added Wong, for whom one of the highlights was the Boehner-Stahl exchange.
All Penn students who attended also received a free copy of the book, as well as the chance to get it signed by Gutmann and Thompson.
Regarding the future of compromise in government, the two authors believe that the role of the media could have a very large and significant impact by pointing out the cause of legislative gridlock.
“The media could actually show the American public who it is that’s holding up these bills,” Gutmann said. “That would at least help. A small change would help make a big difference.”