Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Rachel Maddow talks about Ethics, Stanford, and Her New Book

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” spoke to the Stanford community about her time as an undergraduate and about her new book “Drift.” Memorial Auditorium was packed, filled with students drawn by the chance to see one

Rob Reich and Rachel Maddow, answering questions during the Q&A.
Photo credit: Charles Russo

of Stanford’s most famous alumna.

You could almost miss the fact that the talked was sponsored in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Program in Ethics in Society. But Maddow and the people that introduced her, Professor Rob Reich and senior Jessica Asperger,  gave us reminders that the focus of the talk was about ethics, about how the choices we make have consequences.

Maddow first introduced us to this subject by talking about her time at Stanford. Although she didn’t have any prior plans to complete a Public Policy major or honors thesis, they became steps towards completing her personal goals. After coming out and deciding to become an active member of a gay community she believed was being terminated by AIDS, Maddow said,”At age 17, I came out and thought my role was to fight.” She didn’t know what exactly she was going to do or how she was going to accomplish it but the program was one of her first steps down the long road that has allowed her to become one of America’s most thoughtful political commentators. (more…)

We’re at War, Remember?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried, discussed war and its ethics with fellow author and Vietnam veteran Tobias Wolff at Cubberley Auditorium on Monday night.

Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday tried to address every major problem facing the U.S. in one hour. He arguably succeeded, despite getting interrupted by applause every couple of sentences. While most of what he discussed was to be expected–creating jobs, reforming education, celebrating his administration’s triumphs (or disasters, depending on your point of view)–at the end he touched on a topic one hardly hears discussed at Stanford or in the media: the nation’s two wars.

The United States is nearing its eighth year in Iraq and tenth year in Afghanistan. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Stanford community got a chilling reminder on Monday night about the realities of war from authors and Vietnam veterans Tim O’Brien and Tobias Wolff. O’Brien and Wolff, who teaches English at Stanford, discussed their memories of war, its conflicts with ethics, and the role of conscience in society before a packed audience in Cubberley Auditorium.

The novelty of what these authors shared reinforced how distant we have become from our country’s present conflicts. “All I recalled was generalized chaos,” said O’Brien. “War erases memory. Chronologies get scrambled…. I wrote about the aftermath, what I carried with me for the rest of my life.” O’Brien went on to write novels that would make him one of the most famous voices of the Vietnam generation, including the fittingly-titled The Things They Carried. Yet as O’Brien pointed out, he had to press his content beyond “the killing and dying.” His anger–at the chicken-hawk politicians who had drafted him and sent him into the conflict without putting their own bodies where their thoughts were, at the supposed heroism of his task in the wake of My Lai, at the way war sought to “divorce him from life”–pushed him to expose the “petty horrors of war” that had evaded the rest of his countrymen. Ultimately, O’Brien’s work sought to answer the following question: what is the role of conscience in society?

We talk about conscience like an existential notion that we achieve when we know ourselves. Yet how can we know ourselves when we don’t even think about the men and women getting shot and blown up overseas supposedly defending our way of life? Wolff admitted at one point that he left for war seeking a taste of adventure, a desire that deserted him as soon as he arrived. His misconception is mild compared to the ambivalent way we view the volunteers who serve us today, if we even think about them at all. (more…)

It’s Only Been a Week, and 1/5 of the New ASSU Senate is Already in Ethics Trouble

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

GAIA, an environmental group, endorsed candidates for Senate

In politics, as they say, Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose. The scandal-plagued, scandal-plagued, scandal-plagued ASSU just got a whole batch of new Senators–and 3 of them are already facing ethical complaints.

First, there’s Ben Jensen, who signed a declaration saying he wouldn’t go abroad and then decided to go abroad. Luckily, this will make his attendance rate similar to every other person on the Senate.

Then, there’s Carolyn Simmons and Rebecca Sachs, who both agreed to run a recycled-paper-only campaign to be endorsed by GAIA (which sounds like an LGBTQ group but is apparently an environmental one) but found themselves short on supplies. Their plan of action? No joke–they allegedly printed off copies of Obama’s new Healthcare bill to create their own recycled paper. It is obvious that though they have limited concern for the environment, they do care about spreading the knowledge about what’s in the new Healthcare bill–which, it turns out, allows young people (that’s us) to stay covered on their parents’ plan until they are 26.

With Sarah Palin only making the occasional ridiculous appearance these days, it’s good to see that the ASSU will ensure that politics will be entertaining for a while longer.