E.J. Dionne inaugural speaker at Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture

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March 23, 2007

E.J. DionneEditor's Note: E.J. Dionne was a guest on Minnesota Public Radio's Midday program on Tuesday, April 17. 

Gene McCarthy admired the writings of Washington Post newspaper columnist, author and commentator E.J. Dionne, Jr. That admiration was mutual.

Dionne praised McCarthy as a "poetic Isaiah whose plain literacy puts many other politicians to shame" and that rare politician "willing to stand alone in the hope that, once in a while, something good might happen."

As the inaugural speaker in the Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19 at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater, Saint John's University, Collegeville, Dionne will honor McCarthy for his courage to speak out alone in a time of war. His speech, "The Promise and Limits of Politics: What Gene McCarthy Taught Us," is free and open to the public.

Dionne is noted for a keen intellect that delivers reasoned analysis with a passion for people – traits that also applied to the late U.S. representative and senator from Minnesota and Saint John’s University graduate. Dionne – like McCarthy – is also Irish and Catholic.

Dionne's op-ed column – which began in 1993 in the Post – appears in syndication to more than 100 newspapers. He joined the staff of the Post in 1990 as a reporter.

Prior to joining the Post, Dionne spent 14 years working as a reporter for the New York Times newspaper, reporting on state and local government, national politics and from around the world, including stints in Paris, Rome and Berlin.

His best-selling book, "Why Americans Hate Politics: Death of the Democratic Process" (1991, Simon and Schuster), was called a "classic in American political history" by Newsday. It won the Los Angeles Times book prize, and was a National Book Award nominee.

Dionne has also written "They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era" (1996, Simon and Schuster) and "Stand Up, Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps and the Politics of Revenge" (2004, Simon and Schuster).

He is a regular political analyst on National Public Radio, and is a frequent commentator on CNN and NBC's "Meet the Press."

In May 1996, Dionne joined the Brookings Institution as a senior fellow in the Governance Studies Program. He is also a senior advisor to The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and a professor at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute.

Dionne grew up in Fall River, Mass. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1973, and received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

The Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture was announced in January 2006, following a memorial service to the three-time presidential candidate at Saint John’s Abbey Church. McCarthy, a native of nearby Watkins, Minn., spent seven years as a student at Saint John's Preparatory School and University, and nearly one year as a member of the Benedictine community of Saint John's Abbey.

The annual public lecture will feature distinguished speakers who will address topics cherished by McCarthy – including politics, poetry, social and economic justice, constitutional reform, campaign finance and other pertinent public policy issues.

The lectureship will carry on McCarthy's deep commitment to the ideals and principles of democratic self-government. It will seek to inspire a new generation of young people to pursue fresh ideas, to challenge the status quo, to effect positive change in their communities and, like McCarthy himself, to lead with honesty, integrity and courage.