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Carney spoke to Benedictine College’s Transforming Culture in America strategic planning group on Nov. 16 about how the college’s mission is exactly what America needs. The evening before, he was a featured speaker of the college’s Center for Constitutional Liberty. His speech “Connect or Collapse,” focused on his research into the American Dream and whether it was truly dead for his book Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse.
1: Benedictine’s Mission
“Too many places have too few robust institutions of civil society, and the people there are left alienated, lacking a safety net, a sense of purpose, connectivity, and modeling, and thus access to the good life. … Religious institutions can’t be just be religious institutions, and educational institutions can’t just be educational institutions. Benedictine College has it right: Community faith and scholarship are inseparable.”
2: Transforming the Culture
“There’s no one solution, there’s a hundred thousand little solutions, it’s going to be on a very local level. That’s what’s going to turn America around. I hope, in a room like this, that there can be one hundred of those little solutions. That the people here can be the people who build community, who make everyplace they live a great place to raise kids, a great place to learn, a great place to study.”
“I wrote Alienated America and I enjoyed writing it. I think it’s an important book. It’s a book about the American Dream and the widely held view that the American Dream is dead. So it’s a book about work. It’s a book about faith. It’s a book about family and it’s a book about community.”
4: From an Iowa Bar …
“I have a story to tell about the American Dream, and the widely held view that the American Dream is Dead. It’s a story about work, about family, and about faith. It’s also about how Donald Trump became the President of the United States. Because I am a political reporter, the story begins in Iowa. Because I am an Irish Catholic, the story begins in a bar …”
5: Community Collapse
“Life outside the connected bubble we all live in is a tale of real alienation and skyrocketing opioid deaths. The collapse of community isn’t just that people don’t have a Memorial Day parade to walk, it’s a collapse of the things that make life bearable.”
6: Where Trump Failed
“Donald Trump, the candidate who declared that the American dream was dead bombed in places where the American dream is alive — where neighbors take care of neighbors, and families go to church.”
7: The Marriage Gap
“There’s this false belief among many conservatives that the liberal elites all graduate from Wesleyan and become swingers and decadent people who eschew marriage and hate children. … The data on the elites nationwide tell a different story. College-educated men are much more likely to get married, and half as likely to get divorced. I would tell the conservatives … the liberal elites are practicing what we’re preaching.”
8: Churchgoing Data
“Brad Wilcox writes, with the data to back it up, Americans who regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, temple or mosque are less likely to cheat on their partners; less likely to abuse them; more likely to enjoy happier marriages; and less likely to have been divorced.”
9: Communities with Strong Churches
“These are the places that embed you in a community through interlocking institutions. They pick you up when you’re falling down, they call you to a higher place, they restore the American dream.”
10: The Need for Community, faith and Scholarship.
“Where these institutions are, the American dream is alive. But in much of the country, these institutions are fading, and anemic if not completely gone.”