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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On December 9, MSNBC political pundit Chris Matthews visited Rutgers University to discuss his perception on contemporary American domestic politics and promote his new book, “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.”
Matthews held a thoughtful conversation with the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics’s director, Professor Ruth Mandel, at the Douglas Campus Center.
While speaking with Professor Mandel, Matthews discussed a variety of issues within modern American politics from Obamacare to the involvement of youth in politics. According to event staff, the program reached full capacity for attendance Monday night: 700 attendees at in building’s Trayes Hall.
Matthews, known for his vibrant and individualistic commentary on American politics, has been involved in domestic politics for most of his life. He worked in journalism since the 1980’s, and has served a variety of political roles in the past 40 years.
Matthews was a speechwriter for the presidential administration of Jimmy Carter, and worked as chief of staff for former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil. In 1974, he ran for unsuccessfully for a seat in Congress.
He is best known, of course, for his MSNBC talk show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” which has been on the air since the late 1990’s.
While talking with Professor Mandel, Matthews remained lively and ecstatic, and he touched a variety of controversial subjects.
Matthews passionately raised his voice several times throughout the presentation.
“No matter the size, government should work,” Matthew explained to the audience. “Liberals, the progressives, have a bigger stake [in politics] because they believe [in government].”
However, Matthews argued that the Obama administration lacks political accountability for serious mistakes.
“Unique accountability. Who is in charge,” Matthews asserted. “If you believe in government, you have the responsibility of making it work.”
For Matthews, Obama’s administration remains blighted by a lack of responsibility for failures within the federal government.
The speaker also touched on other contemporary subjects as well, many of which proposed by the Eagleton Institute’s Fellows, as well as local attendees from the Rutgers-New Brunswick community.
When one fellow, a current social studies teacher within New Jersey, asked about bringing civic education in the classroom, Matthews spoke strongly about the importance of educational passion.
“I do really think you gotta figure… how to get [kids] to give a damn,” he said.
“Rooting for the city and rooting for the town,” remained crucial to his beliefs on public affairs. Matthews urged that local school curriculums must emphasize the emotional connection found between young students and their local area’s history.
And for a region’s minorities, Matthews claimed, creating a local tradition can prove extremely difficult due to a lack of historical representation in government and public affairs.
Above all, Matthews said that personal initiative remains vital to creating a superior democracy.
Matthews asserted that the public should focus on researching and compiling their own news sources, in order to stay informed on contemporary political issues.
“We’re smart people,” Matthews claimed. “Put your own stew together.”
The Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics periodically hosts a variety of guest speakers and events based on both national and local politics.
Entitled “Making Our Democracy a More Perfect Union,” the event was a part of Eagleton’s “Louis J. Gambaccini Civic Engagement Series,” which examines the role of democracy and citizenship in contemporary American culture.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.