Former U.S. Senator, Olympian, NBA Hall of Famer and Best-Selling Author Bill Bradley speaks at Lehigh University on Tuesday, Feb 2. 2016. Bradley spoke about the College of Arts and Sciences and the importance of cultural understanding and tolerance. (Lexi Berliner/B&W Staff)

Q&A: Kenner Lecture speaker Bill Bradley talks activism, political culture

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Bill Bradley discussed ideas from his book We Can All Do Better as he delivered the 18th Kenner Lecture on Cultural Understanding and Tolerance on Tuesday. Bradley is a former senator, Olympian. NBA Hall of Famer, according to his website.

Q: The Kenner Lecture on Cultural Understanding and Tolerance invites speakers to share their messages with the Lehigh community, and your message is one that encourages people “to care about each other” and “reclaim the legacy that reflects our best self.” Why do you see these things as necessary for America to prosper, and how can these ideals be used to promote prosperity on a college campus such as Lehigh?

Bill Bradley: I think the strongest community is the community that has the most respect for its members, and the members for each other. I think America is lucky. We’re a very diverse society, and we are a country of immigrants. We’ve overcome a lot of dark chapters in our lives to be a country that has a deep optimism about our capacities and our ultimate values.

Q: Lehigh political science professor Ted Morgan once noted that the “corporate conservative” atmosphere on campus discourages political activism. In your book We Can All Do Better, you encourage individuals to actively work to better the state of the country. How would you suggest that members of the Lehigh community do this, given the current campus climate?

BB: I don’t know about the campus climate, so you’ll have to make the judgement about that, but I think that college is a time to grown and to express yourself. If you care about race, you should be involved in the battle for voting rights and also the battle against the death penalty. If you want to make a difference, that’s where you can make a difference. I think you can find common ground with a lot of people.

Q: A new president will be elected this year, and candidates are campaigning to the masses. What do you think voters, and specifically college-age voters, should look for in a candidate? 

BB: Which one they think is going to protect their future and create the best future for them. I always say, when you run for president, somebody asks three questions: Who do I trust with my life? Who do I trust with my job? Who has a view of life that is remotely similar to mine? So I think that issue of trust and affinity is what college students as well as adults should think about.

Q: If you had to give advice to college students today who are looking to be successful, influence policy and make a change, what advice would you give them?

BB: Learn how to write an English sentence and paragraph. Learn about the history of your country. Understand the imaginative literature of your country. Think about what your strengths and weaknesses are candidly, and then make a decision and move to your strength in a way that serves your values.

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