American political operative and political analyst David Axelrod encouraged BYU students to become involved in the political process as a way to improve democracy in his forum address. He said the efforts of young people are the key to a future change in political climate.
Axelrod opened his remarks by acknowledging National Geographic’s recent ranking of Provo as America’s seventh happiest city. The audience cheered in response. However, he went on to say modern-days politics is not a happy topic.
“Too many people today believe that the political system is corrupt inside,” Axelrod said. “Too many people believe it is more about parties in this country.”
Axelrod referenced a recent poll indicating the percentage of Americans who say they are no longer proud of the country’s democracy has risen from 18 percent to 36 percent since 2014. He believes the way to a better future in democracy is through participation in politics and being active at all levels.
Axelrod has worked with 150 campaigns during his 40 year political career, his most notable work being with former president Barack Obama. He worked closely with Obama during his 2008 campaign as chief strategist and media advisor. He became a senior adviser to the president shortly after Obama’s election.
Obama’s attention to the impact of political issues on the average person helped shaped Axelrod’s perspective about the work they were doing in the White House, specifically during the development of the Affordable Care Act.
“It is not about whether the blue team wins or the red team wins,” Axelrod said. “It is not about who is up or who is down. It is not about that. It is about what we can do together to try and solve problems that impact people’s lives.”
Despite differences in thinking among political parties, the country can be strengthened by taking advantage of opportunities and working together. Axelrod reminded the audience the founders of the United States did not wholeheartedly agree on everything. They founded the country in “honest debate and mutual respect”.
Axelrod warned students of the dangers of social media, by which people find themselves in a world where everyone’s thoughts and opinions align with their own. In addition, he warned students of avoiding the political process although at times it may be discouraging. He added that the current political climate may be sensitive, but the need for debate to work through issues is greater.
“I think the worst thing that’s happened to our country is this notion that we can’t disagree without being disagreeable,” Axelrod said. “We can’t disagree on issues without trying to dehumanize our opponents or disqualify them as patriots and Americans.”
Axelrod concluded by encouraging students to use their developing talents to benefit their communities and their country.
“I’m here today to urge you to use your gifts, your enormous talents, the talents that are being cultivated here at the ‘Y’, to make this country better and stronger and help heal our democracy,” Axelrod said.
The audience members in the Marriott Center responded to Axelrod’s remarks with a standing ovation at the conclusion of his address.
Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy will deliver the devotional address next week on Tuesday, Nov. 7.