Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Columnist Tim Egan lectures on election

Tim Egan speaks to WhittiesAuthor and longtime New York Times columnist Timothy Egan visited Whitman on Tuesday, Jan. 27 to present a lecture on the historic nature of Obama’s election.

Egan spent the day with different student groups, answering questions from Politics Professor Susanne Beechey’s students and later conducting a writing seminar with staff members of The Pioneer. His visit culminated in a community-wide speech entitled, “The Politics of Possibility.”

Egan discussed the significance of Obama’s election and emphasized the importance of Obama’s first year in office.

“I predict that he will be either judged a great president or a broken man within a year,” Egan said, contending that Obama’s success depends primarily on the effect of his $819 billion economic stimulus package. If the Senate follows the House’s lead and approves the stimulus package, its triumph or failure will determine America’s future.

“I don’t say this casually; there is no Plan B,” said Egan. (Obama’s stimulus package is Plan A.) “We are literally printing this money: it’s deficit spending…it’s not backed by anything.”

Solving the economic crisis isn’t Obama’s only challenge, though.

“He has this horrible balancing act,” said Egan. “You saw this in the inaugural address…raising us up, wanting us all to be invested in his success, but at the same time lowering expectations.”

In order to preserve public approval, Obama must make this difficult task a priority.

Although a segment of Egan’s lecture focused on the dire consequences of failure, other parts of the evening were more uplifting. Egan marked the 2008 election as an exciting electoral transformation.

“We did not vote on ideology nor for that matter did we vote on race,” said Egan.

Instead, the American people voted in unpredictable ways. According to Egan, in the past Republicans could count on the suburban vote, the Catholic vote and the vote of the educated. In the 2008 election, Obama won every single one of these groups, even going so far as to win the vote of those earning more than $200,000 a year: the only group, Egan pointed out, whose taxes will be raised under Obama’s administration.

“People who would never support a liberal Democrat are going to give this guy a chance,” said Egan.

Senior Andrea Miller praised Egan’s lecture, noting its creative spin.

“He pieced together the information into a narrative form, and he added his own personal stories along with larger events going on,” she said.

Tim Egan

His technique resulted in a lecture that was “accessible” and “engaging,” she said.

Egan is no stranger to Whitman. He holds an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the college, and he gave the commencement speech eight years ago.

Obama’s historic election proved the perfect opportunity for his return to campus.

“He was very excited to be invited because he thinks highly of Whitman and he certainly loves the topic [of the election],” said Director of Communications Ruth Wardwell.

After the lecture, Egan lingered to sign copies of his books. A number of Egan’s books, including National Book Award Winner The Worst Hard Time, are sold at the Whitman College Bookstore. Egan’s New York Time’s opinion column, “Outposts”, is posted every Thursday on nytimes.com. A segment of the column is printed weekly in the Sunday edition of The New York Times.

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