Let me end tonight with the week I just spent teaching at the University of San Francisco.
You know what young people want to know? They want to know how we can make this democracy of ours work for the country, how we can get good people to lead us, can find people who are ready to be good people.
When does “hardball politics” become “dirtball”? Great question. The only answer I could come up with was the truth. When politicians lie about each other, that’s dirtball. When they try and suppress the vote because they win the public’s support, that’s dirtball, isn’t it?
How do we control the power of big money in politics? That’s the hard one, isn’t it? Because if money has a louder voice, a bigger role than the regular voter, what do you honestly tell the regular voter and his or her power to guide our country in the best direction?
How do we bring morality to politics? That’s a great question, and the best answer I’ve been able to come up with–which I shared with the class out at USF–is this:
If you don’t enter public life with a pretty strong moral sense or what is right and wrong, you won’t develop one once you’re there. You’ve got to come in strong and sure because all the pressure once you’re in is about ambition. But if you do come in with a strong moral sense, you’ll do okay. In fact, you’ll do fine because you’ll know when you have to stand up to the pressure from those who don’t come in with a good moral compass.
And that’ll get you through.