Institute for Liberal Studies, Ottawa – Week 9 – Obama’s Speechwriter and Winter Festival

Carl Schelling

This week I had a few interesting events coming up to look forward, an event with Sarada Peri, former President Obama’s speechwriter and communications strategist and a film screening organised by the ILS and another non-profit.

The week began as any other, putting together some events on the website and social media pages and searching through academic papers to find excerpts for readings for upcoming Socratic Seminars. This week I had a paper by Christopher Wellman on Immigration and The Freedom of Association. In the paper, Wellman makes the argument that like how individuals and businesses should have freedom of association with their time and property, nations have the same freedom of association with their borders and immigration policy thus serving as a right to exclude. This is an interesting line of thinking, but I think it goes against the idea of freedom from unnecessary intervention by the state when the power to exclude is ceded from individuals to the state in matters of foreign persons.

Wednesday morning was Sarada Peri’s talk over at Canada 2020, a left-wing think tank that I’m told is essentially an arm of Canada’s Liberal Party. The talk was titled Political Communications to Respond to The Populist Movement. Peri mostly kept the discussion to US developments and declining trust in historical establishment institutions like the media and government while briefly talking about those left behind by a changing world being pushed into Trump’s base of supporters. I found the talk to be fairly standard left-wing talking points and very little was said in the way of practical solutions or recommendations to alleviate the problems caused by declining trust and the political divide. Afterwards, I walked back to the ILS offices to reflect on the morning’s talk to see if it shifted my beliefs or perspectives. I found that they had had little effect.

Thursday night was the film screening of the American Enterprise Institute’s production of The Pursuit in which former musician turned capitalism advocate Arthur Brooks tours a rural town in Kentucky, a socialist parade in Barcelona and the Dharavi slum in India to see how capitalism is relevant in a changing world and the thoughts of different groups. His tour of Dharavi was inspiring as he talked to locals making their own way in tough circumstances who embrace the spirit of entrepreneurialism with an admirable ambitious drive. It was particularly poignant when compared to the socialist parade in Barcelona, which has historically been a centre for left-wing thought and policy, where demonstrators blame others for their circumstances and demand further intervention by government against those whom they see as oppressors.

The weekend eventually came around and was the annual Winterlude Festival, where stages were set up for music and ice sculptures from artists from all around the world. Across the river on the Quebec side near my place was a constructed winter activity area with flying foxes, hockey and sledging to be enjoyed by all.