Television and radio personality Glenn Beck spoke with James Doty, clinical professor of neurosurgery, on Thursday night at Tresidder Memorial Union about the role of compassion in his life and its place in society. The dialogue was sponsored by Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), which Doty directs.
Beck spent time discussing the role that compassion has played in his personal edification and the apparent shortage of compassion in society today. The often contentious media personality spoke about his own personal struggles with drug and alcohol abuse and the vital role that his faith has played in guiding him.
Beck, who has worked at both CNN and Fox News and is the founder of TheBlaze news network, argued that due to the highly divisive political atmosphere in which discussion of “principles” has been replaced with that of “interests,” society is largely devoid of compassion today. When it comes to questions of torture, war and other divisive topics, Beck feels that people often share many of the same principles. Discussion of personal interests, however, leads us to ignore the principles on which we base our beliefs.
“What’s happening in our country right now and in our world – the reason we’re all so screwed up – is because our politicians, our political parties and our citizens and our pundits are all talking about interests,” Beck said.
“In order to heal ourselves, we need to go to uncomfortable places, have uncomfortable conversations and realize we’re not that different from one another,” Beck said. “We do have principles and humanity in common.”
Beck, a devout Mormon, made frequent reference to faith in the discussion. He discussed a recent trip to Israel with a large group of pastors, a conversation with Billy Graham of the Bill Graham Evangelistic Association and the close work his charity, Mercury One, has performed with religious leaders. Beck cited the cooperation his charity has produced between ostensibly opposing religious groups as evidence that compassion arises when we see each other as fellow humans.
CCARE, which is affiliated with Stanford’s School of Medicine, seeks to understand what motivates us to act compassionately and altruistically.
“My experience so far is there is only one world, we’re all in it and ultimately we have to live in it together,” Doty said.
Doty, who jokingly quoted Beck’s description of “elite institutions with useful idiots,” felt Beck was a relevant speaker for CCARE to host due to the many turns his personal and professional careers have taken.
“You can’t judge somebody by soundbites,” Doty said. “You judge somebody by spending time with them and realizing that almost everyone has the same hopes, aspirations and desires.”
Contact Sam Premutico at samprem ‘at’ stanford.edu.