David Brooks tells Sarasotans national healing starts from ‘bottom up’

New York Times columnist espouses community, not tribalism, in local appearance

Pointing to the cultural shift toward a more individualistic society as the reason for America’s highly polarized political moment, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks told a Sarasota crowd Monday that it will take a communal approach led by average citizens, not politicians, to heal a divided nation.

“Joy is what happens when the self disappears because you’ve joined something and the envelope between where you end and another person begins goes away … you forget about yourself, and that’s the ultimate triumph and the ultimate way that a country and a person renews,” Brooks said in capping a 30-minute speech that drew a standing ovation from the 655 people gathered at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium for the Library Foundation of Sarasota County’s annual author luncheon.

Brooks is a center-right columnist who also has written multiple books and makes regular appearances as a commentator for the PBS NewsHour. He was introduced Monday as a writer who once penned a column headlined “No, Not Trump, Not Ever.”

In that column, Brooks said Trump was “epically unprepared to be president” and “perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes.”

“Donald Trump is an affront to basic standards of honesty, virtue and citizenship,” Brooks wrote.

Brooks did not mention Trump during his speech, but did address the political tribalism that has gripped the country, tracing it to the changes that convulsed America during the second half of the 20th Century.

That shift toward greater emphasis on individual freedom and accomplishments brought about many good things for the country, Brooks said, including the civil rights movement, women’s rights and great advances in technology. But it also came at great cost, he argued.

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