By Heather Rodriguez
Nearly three-hundred incoming freshman attended the lecture of author and scholar Robert Putnam as he presented his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis on September 26, 2016, as part of the College of Liberal Arts’ Common Ground Reading Initiative.
Common Ground is a high-impact reading initiative designed to create a learning community among first-year students, while encouraging them to think critically and engage civically.
In Our Kids, Putnam demonstrates the rising income inequality gap in America using both hard data and stories of real families around the country.
“I do focus on characters because I want to bring this to life. I don’t want this to just be an academic piece,” Putnam said. “I want it to live, and the way to do that is to talk about the real stories of real people.”
Putnam also posed ideas to fix this income gap.
“We’ve been here before,” Putnam said. “Around 1910 we had many of the same problems…and some folks said ‘I don’t want to live in that kind of America.’ And there began a period of economic and political reform that changed the country.”
However, Putnam said, change won’t start at the top.
“The idea for reform in 1910 came from ordinary citizens. It came not because of partisan politics, but despite extreme polarization,” he said. “The way we fix this problem is you, and I mean you.”