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Best-Selling Author Leads 2017 Waitt Lecture

J. D. Vance

J. D. Vance

by Sara Alexander–

“The American dream is in crisis.”

J.D. Vance, author of the New York Times best-seller “Hillbilly Elegy: A memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” believes the traditional American dream is in crisis; not every kid in every part of the country has an equal chance at achieving said dream.

One reason for this is government programs allowing for sustainability over progress, which is further analyzed in his book. In fact, he saidt the reason he wrote his memoir was to examine “why the American dream wasn’t happening as much in the areas of the country I care about.”

Vance was the speaker for Morningside College’s 2017 Waitt Lecture Monday, Nov. 20, in Eppley Auditorium.

Another main point of Vance’s speech was his theory on how we became the people we are today and how that ties into achieving the American dream. From his perspective, the chance at success is determined by both personal choice as well as environmental factors. Even when people grow up and relocate, Vance believes they are “still influenced and affected by the environment and culture they grew up in.”

Excerpts from “Hillbilly Elegy” were also shared. Vance read of a time his grandparents defended their family while Christmas shopping, which showed how the importance of family honor, while rooted in his grandparents at a young age, stuck with them throughout their lives.

The floor was opened for questions, leading to discussion on social media and isolation, free will, Vance’s family’s reaction to the book, and more.

Morningside Senior, Allison Linafelter, had a chance to read Vance’s book beforehand. “I think his remarks were important and would have been more meaningful if people had read his book. Overall, the subject of why America is so divided right now is a hugely controversial and complex question, but one Americans really need to be asking themselves in order for us to progress past this,” she said.

Terri Curry, Vice President of Student Life and Enrollment, said she enjoyed both Vance’s book and lecture, specifically the reflection on his past. “Vance spoke honestly about how those characteristic/traits made him the person he is today. I really like that he made no excuses for anything. He made no apologies for the way he was brought up and is clear that his outlook on life is based on his personal experiences,” she said.

Lecture-goers seemed to enjoy Vance’s anecdotes and analysis of culture, but it was clear the content of his discussion was catered moreso to those who had read his book.