Dinesh D’Souza is the Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He
is the author of Illiberal Education, The End of Racism,
Letters to a Young Conservative and What’s So Great About
America. D’Souza spoke to the Review before his speech at West
Lecture Hall on Thursday.
I understand you’ve visited Oberlin before?
Yes. I started
speaking in 1991 when my first book Illiberal Education came out and I
remember coming to Oberlin shortly after that — so I think I’ve been
to Oberlin twice. I believe the last time I was here I met your Rhodes Scholar
Jesse Malkin, who at the time was dating a young Oriental girl named Michelle,
who is now the writer Michelle Malkin.
What’s your impression of our school?
My impression of Oberlin is
that it’s always been a lively, feisty place that’s left wing in its
politics in a very intelligent way. Left wing and lowbrow is always a very
toxic combination but audiences at Oberlin tend to be a mixture of conservatives
and liberals, and there’s always a good debate.
Do you think that the climate on American college campuses has changed
since you wrote Illiberal Education?
I think the general themes of the
book are still very relevant. There have been some changes in terms of political
correctness. The speech codes that were prevalent on campuses are more rare now
and are rarely enforced. On the other hand, there’s still a problem of
political balance. The older generation of professors who were providing balance
are retiring now and the ’60s generation is now in full control.
Do you think that the left wing climate on campuses is affecting the
I think that the university is now self-consciously removed
from the political mainstream, so the politics of academia has no effect on
national politics. Where I think that academia does have an impact is in molding
the minds of young people. It’s a fact that many young people come to
university as conservatives and leave as liberals.
But are these liberal college grads having any affect on the national
That’s more debatable. There is also the
“mugged by reality” syndrome, which is when people who were more
left wing become taxpayers and have families and then become more conservative.
Do you enjoy speaking to audiences who may be hostile to your point of
I like speaking before liberal audiences better because I feel more
intellectually challenged. Lots of people can give a conservative speech to
conservative audiences but talking to liberals has sort of become my specialty.
The integration of immigrants and racial minorities into society has been
a major topic of your writing. Can you comment on that theme in your
Well, France is very different than America of course. The kind of
Islamic radicalism that we are seeing in Europe has not, to date, surfaced in
America, and I think there are a few reasons for that. Despite all the battles
about multiculturalism, Americanization is actually working quite well. France
is also relentlessly anti-religious and consider their opposition to the veil to
be justified by the fact that they ban the cross as well, therefore
discriminating against all religions. It is a lot easier to practice your
religion here, which is the reason why traditionalist Muslims feel more
But couldn’t France be described as the ultimate anti-multicultural
society as well?
There’s no evidence that that’s what they want,
though. This isn’t about time off of school for holidays or funding for
festivals — they want inclusion. The deeper point is not multiculturalism
but inclusion. It is possible for an immigrant to become an American. Europe
does not give full membership to the outsider.
Do you think that George Bush is a conservative in the tradition of Ronald
Reagan, whom you’ve written a book about, or does he represent a shift in
I don’t think that there is any fundamental
shift. Reagan conservatism represented a three-pronged strategy focused on
winning the Cold War, protecting the free market and what were called
In this sense the Bush approach is very squarely in the mainstream, with
Islamic radicalism neatly replacing communism. Obviously now, socialism does not
exist anymore. Bush’s tax cuts are very much in the tradition of
Reaganism. He’s probably a much more devout Christian, but both have an
emphasis on the decent society.
What’s going to be the theme of your speech tonight [Thursday
Tonight I’m going to talk about some of the connections between
the foreign policy debate and the culture wars going on domestically and address
whether or not America is an empire and what type of empire.
The motives of radical Islam are quite different from what we think.
I’m going to try to give a unique interpretation of what this war is all
Do you think America is an empire?
It is an empire but not in the
traditional sense. America is based on certain political truths. When the
founders articulated these truths we had principles but no power. Now America is
starting to act on these principles globally. That’s something that goes