Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) may be one of — if not the — brightest elected officials in modern times. He’s a deep thinker with a profound knowledge of history in its proper context — and able to explain things in a common sense, understandable way.
The senator joined Glenn on radio Wednesday to discuss his new book The Vanishing American Adult, why political parties are not worthy of our hopes and dreams, and how we can turn things around in America. Most importantly, he explained the red shorts in the photo above and if he habitually hangs out with Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Sen. Sasse on Capitol Hill in a red tie. (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: Senator Ben Sasse, we’d like to treat you with respect. And then we saw the picture of you in the red shorts and —
PAT: You know what it is, it’s reminiscent of, remember the book that Arlen Specter wrote, where he talked about the Senate bathhouse?
GLENN: Yeah, that’s right.
PAT: John Thune was naked in the hot tub.
PAT: We made tender love for an hour.
GLENN: I don’t think he wrote that.
But, Ben Sasse, welcome to the program, sir.
BEN: I am here, just to be your straight man.
GLENN: Wow. What — what unfortunate timing for you to be on this program after these pictures are trending now.
BEN: Yeah. I think my phone is breaking up. But it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed the interview. Thanks for the —
GLENN: No, it’s not a problem.
Do you stand by — I’m sure you stand by the red shorts. But how about the little pencil legs?
BEN: Wow. That’s too soon, brother.
GLENN: Too soon. I’m sorry. Okay. All right.
PAT: Too soon.
BEN: I will be honest with you, I’m just happy I’m not wearing Umbros. Because I would have been in 1992 garb.
GLENN: So we’ll come back in about 20 minutes. It won’t be too soon.
I want to talk to you about your book The Vanishing American Adult, which I think you are spot on, on so much. I would — we were kicking around that we believe that there should be a constitutional amendment that makes it illegal for any senator to write a book.
GLENN: Because they usually don’t have anything to say. And, I mean, who the hell do you think you are writing a book?
BEN: If the book has a little bit of substance, I’m ashamed. I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time.
GLENN: All right. All right. I do want to get to the book. But can we talk about the news of the day and the storm that is happening in Washington, DC? Can you tell us the weather pattern?
BEN: Yeah. There’s weather, and there’s climate, right? So let’s talk about weather, as you want to, but let’s be sure we also then back up and put it in the context of climate.
GLENN: Of climate, yes.
BEN: Because the chaos here isn’t just the last four months. It isn’t just the last 18 months. It’s not just this presidential cycle. It’s been for a heck of a long time, we’ve forgotten to do basic civics. And when you don’t do basic civics, you lose that sense of what politics are for.
Because I’m of the one-cheer-for-politics school. Zero cheers doesn’t work. The world is broken, and so you need a framework for liberty. You need security. We need spies. We need to protect sources and methods. We need to have clarity about when and what foreign interventions we do and don’t do and what allies we support and not.
But you don’t want Washington to be the center of the world. And five of the seven richest counties in America are now here. That’s because we’ve not been doing civics, and so there’s a drift towards government filling that vacuum.
GLENN: What is the — the forecast for any of the president’s initiatives going through, tax cuts, health care, the border, with all of the wall? I mean, is any of it going to happen?
BEN: I really hope. Obviously, I overwhelmingly hope. And partly believe some of it will still happen. There will be some movement on an agenda. But the reality is, there’s just not much of a decision-making process in the White House right now, with a really big carve-out, which is on the national security side, General McMaster is a really good pick by the president. He’s doing a really good job. The president has named a bunch of exceptional people on the foreign policy and national security space.
So Mattis is arguably the most impressive person at the Pentagon in half a century, for example. And those folks are working together, trying to develop a strategy — you know, the president is planning to still leave town tomorrow night and go to the Middle East. And his idea about trying to foster and facilitate more Asia/Sunni cooperation as a counterforce against you know, the last administration’s willingness to let Iran. Lots of things happening there that are important and worth deliberating about. The problem is, on the domestic policy and the economic policy side, there’s really not any decision-making process in the White House. And so you just have kiddie soccer.
GLENN: That’s exactly right. He has really done a great job on — on — on the — the security side, especially with foreign policy and the Pentagon. I think — I think McMaster, tremendous. Tremendous.
However, where are the Republicans — I mean, you have the greatest cover going on right now. I mean, Barack Obama used to try to overwhelm the system and have the new cycle going out of control so you couldn’t pay attention to anything. You didn’t know what to watch.
GLENN: And I used to say on Fox all the time, “Watch the other hand.” Well, there is no other hand here. Can anyone in Congress actually start to put together some proposals that the president only has to sign?
BEN: So here, let’s distinguish what should happen and what is really possible. Because one of the places where I’ve changed in the two and a half years I’ve been here, is I still believe that what should happen is the legislature as the article one branch, should be the place where policy deliberation and initiative should happen.
BEN: But now, descriptively, the reality is, since the rise of television, since the late ’40s and early ’50s, when television became the main way that we communicate together. And now, let’s not call it television. Let’s call it moving imagery, as opposed to print-based culture. Right? An image-based culture. So now the rise of digital media. Descriptively, you’ve really never had any big things happen in Washington in the last six or seven decades, if the president wasn’t using the bully pulpit to focus his attention on one issue.
And right now, obviously, for lots of reasons, this White House doesn’t have any kind of clarity about policy initiatives. And so they kind of bounce around from thing to thing. That doesn’t exonerate the Congress. The Congress has a 9 percent approval rating. And to quote my wife, that seems insanely too high.
So the Congress is not doing its work. But neither of these two political parties have had clarity of an agenda for the American people for, you know, a decade, two decades.
And so right now, both parties’ main job, they think, is to flit about, doing hot take to hot take, and mainly saying that the other people are even worse than we are. That’s different than casting a vision.
You get back in the particular visions we should talk about. But as a descriptive matter, we should admit that absent a bully pulpit from the White House to guide a domestic policy agenda, it’s not very likely that it will go forward.
STU: Why is that though? I don’t — I mean, you guys can come up with the rules. You guys can pass the laws.
GLENN: And it’s not that hard — it’s not that hard. Cut the spending. I mean, it’s not that hard.
BEN: But we had — but spending is really mostly about entitlements now. And the public doesn’t seem to want us to focus on entitlements. We still should. And I would gladly lose — right? I’ve run for one thing once in my life. Politics are not the center of my life or identity.
I would gladly try to have a big conversation about actually being honest with the American people about entitlements. Most people here have zero desire to do that.
I thought until the last presidential cycle, only the Democrats were indifferent to whether or not we bankrupted our children.
But now, when you had 17 Republican candidates for president, and 15 of the 17 started the election cycle saying we need to tell the truth about entitlements, only two didn’t — and it seems like the public didn’t really care. There isn’t enough domestic discretionary spending that could possibly make a difference to move the needle.
I’ll give you one stat. When Kennedy was president, 52 percent of our federal spending was national security, 1 percent was health entitlements.
Today, 71 percent of our spending is five entitlement programs, and the remaining 29 percent of all federal spending is half and half defense and non-defense discretionary spending.
BEN: Well, I think we underinvest in defense. I can make a bunch of cases about why I believe that.
The 14 and a half percent that’s non-defense discretionary, you just can’t solve the problems of bankrupting our kids there, even if you took all of it away. The problem is in entitlements, and there’s no political will or courage here to tackle that —
GLENN: But hang on just a second — is there enough — forget about the courage and the — is — can you muster up enough will to — to get a consensus on something? Because with this swirling around, the press is so busy feeding in the bloody water, that I think you guys could get almost anything through at this point.
BEN: So let’s talk about Obamacare entitlements as an example about why so many Republicans don’t seem to actually want to repeal and replace Obamacare.
We can then also talk technical stuff about why it takes 60 votes to do most the things in the Senate, we only have 52 senators, got to do reconciliation, which is only a subset. But for a minute, just bracket all that.
Substantively, there are 50 Republicans. We have the vice president. So we need 50 of the 52 of us to do anything at all, and then you could use Mike Pence as the tie-breaker. You’d need 50 of 52 of us to agree what’s wrong in American health care. I have very well-formulated views. You can argue with me, but I have a clear sense of what I think is wrong in American health care.
And though Obamacare exacerbated lots of problems, it isn’t the case that the problems of American health care just began eight years ago. The American health care system had unsustainable, you know, premium growth of two and a half times inflationary growth annually for year on year on year.
Why is it that we never get higher quality, lower cost care in American health care? There’s a technical business case and policy argument for why that is.
I didn’t know before I got here that most Republicans don’t really understand that or want to fix that. You have Republicans who really think the worst part of Obamacare is the Cadillac tax. That’s insane. It’s a tiny, tiny little piece of the program. And you can debate the merits of whether or not a tax on employer-sponsored insurance that equalizes the individual market is good or bad policy, but it’s a tiny part of what the story is in Obamacare.
And we seemingly have Republicans who have so little clarity about a vision for a system of health care, where you have an insurance policy that’s portable, across job and geographic change for American families, which is what we need in American health care. More and more jobs are going to get shorter and shorter, and most the uninsurance in American life is from people changing jobs. It’s not from health status. It’s not —
GLENN: So, Ben, when does somebody like you, and a group of you, even if it’s three or five, when does a group of you say basically what the Republicans said in the 1850s? Neither party is serious. I’m not going to play this game anymore.
And in a very short period of time, without social media, what started was about 20 people, elected the president in 1860. What is a tipping point? Because I hear this from Republicans all the time. And you’re seeing the number of people who are saying, “I’m not having anything to do with the Republican Party. I’m not having anything to do with the Democratic Party.”
GLENN: There’s a large, growing number of people who are sick of both of them.
GLENN: When is it that you guys are just going to come out and say, “I can’t do it anymore because it’s all lies?”
BEN: Well said. So let’s unpack it a little bit. I’m the third or fourth most conservative guy in the Senate by voting record, but I’m not very partisan in that I’m very unimpressed with both of these parties.
So I have thought of my calling — and my approach to this job has been that I think of myself as functionally an independent who caucuses with the Republicans.
And so I — you know, when you have Republican versus Democratic fights on the things that we’re voting on now, I’m not just Republican. You know, I’m at the conservative end of the continuum. So I’m Republican when the choice is Republican versus Democrat. But what I’m really for is limited government. I’m for families and mediating institutions and markets. And I’m for the future, in that we should be talking about the challenges of ten and 15 and 20 years from now, before they’re fully upon us, with the way cyber is going to remake warfare, for example.
So I am trying to have a conversation that — okay. Fine. On the continuum of stuff we’re — in my mind, I’m sort of — I have three levels of this. The bottom level is right to left continuum on small policy. Then one layer above that is right to left continuum on the bigger policies that we know how to think about right now. But there’s not a lot of political courage or will. That stuff like entitlement reform. What would a portable health care system really look like.
But then, above that, there’s another tier, which is the most important one, which is basic civics education and what are we trying to do as a people in America. Because America is the most exceptional nation in the history of the world because we believe in the dignity of 320 million Americans. We believe in the dignity of 7 billion people, that God gives rights to by nature, and government has a shared project to secure those rights. And we need to pass on that understanding of a republic.
And right now, we’ve allowed our foundations to erode for so long, that we don’t have a shared American narrative. So a bunch of people, you know, sort of reduce down to tribe. And when you’re lonely at home, which is a lot of what’s happening in America right now — as we hollow out these local institutions, people are projecting more on to politics — these two parties aren’t worthy of projecting your grand hopes and dreams on.
Parties are tools, and these tools are pretty spent and exhausted. So I’ll stop here. But to your point, Glenn, I do think these two parties are going to be disrupted and disintermediated. That doesn’t mean I’m for a mushy middle between these two.
GLENN: No, no.
BEN: I’m for a conservatism that goes beyond this present moment of constant short-term-ist kiddie soccer.
GLENN: I will tell you, just what I heard was one of the most stirring and exciting things I’ve heard from any leader in a long time.
Ben is going to continue to be with us. Senator Ben Sasse. He’s written basically what you just heard, is what he’s talking about here, a bigger picture. The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. That’s the name of his book.
You know, a lot of books — I’ll read Mike Lee books because they’re — they’re deep on the Constitution. But it’s like, okay. I got it. This is an important book especially if you’re a parent. Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult, it’s available in bookstores everywhere. Back with Ben Sasse in just a minute.
GLENN: Hey, Senator Ben Sasse is with us. Ben, I just want to — off the top of my head, I’m just thinking about the different states.
Does Nebraska have a rule about running for Senate and let’s say president at the same time?
BEN: Yeah. The only thing I’ve ever looked at is noxious weed control board and husker offensive coordinator, so you’re talking to the wrong guy.
GLENN: Talking to the wrong guy? You should check into that because you’re up for reelection in 2020.
GLENN: And that’s the same year there’s a presidential election.
BEN: Yeah, I’m not great with math. I don’t know about that. I was — I was told there would be no math.
GLENN: Is that right? Well, yeah —
BEN: They lied.
GLENN: We also were told there wouldn’t be any embarrassing pictures of you and Chuck Schumer too.
Is it still too soon?
BEN: I think that — I think that’s probably been Photoshopped. I think you should probably move on.
GLENN: The Vanishing —
BEN: Though someone handed me a Photoshopped version of it that has Schumer with a huge joint in his hand in the photo now. We should doubt the veracity of all these photos.
GLENN: I mean, you do look like Cheech and Chong sitting there. You really do.
BEN: Open up, man. It’s me Dave.
GLENN: What was — what was going on there in those pictures, Ben?
STU: What are we talking about?
BEN: So I work out early in the morning, and then I sneak outside the gym and start out he day talking to my kids on the phone. And I do some radio. And so I was sitting outside the Russell Building, where our gym is, getting ready to do some radio. And Cotton came up, and he and I were talking some national security stuff.
GLENN: Okay. So what I heard here — I hate to interrupt you. You are a sitting senator. But what we heard here is he starts his day smoking pot with Chuck Schumer, every day. Back in a minute. Ben Sasse.
GLENN: There’s truly so much in this new book by Senator Ben Sasse that has nothing to do with politics, has everything about restoring America. The — the problems really stem from within our own homes. No matter who you are, no matter how big you think you are or how much, you know — you’re a United States senator. The most important work you will ever do will be with inside the walls of your own home. And he has — it’s not just a screed against what’s happening. This is an actual plan to help restore it. The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-reliance.
Ben, I don’t even know where to start on this book. I want to start on one of the — no, let’s start with you defining the problem. And then I want to start with one of the solutions in the book that I am personally going to do with my family. I think it’s such a great idea. Start with what the problem is.
BEN: Thanks. So I think a lot of our kids are caught in a state of perpetual adolescence, and that’s not good for them. And it’s not good for our communities. And it’s not good for the republic. But the book is not — The Vanishing American Adult is not a blame game book. It’s two-thirds, as you said, Glenn, constructive project. What do we do about it? How do we make this better? But if we were going to lay some blame, we’re not laying it really directly at the feet of teens and 20-somethings. This is not an anti-millennial book.
It is more about parents and grandparents. We haven’t done a good job of recognizing that this new category of perpetual adolescence that’s drifted in, has let us sort of start to think of adolescence as a destination, as opposed to a means to an end. Childhood is a glorious part of life. It’s supposed to be protected. Our kid’s innocence is supposed to be guarded. And then adulthood, you get to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful, and the heights of human achievement and loving your neighbor and building the new app that’s going to change the world.
Adolescence is that transitional state between the two. And it’s not an eternal idea. It’s only a couple thousand years old that we’ve had this idea, that you hit puberty, you get to biological adulthood, and you don’t have to be totally an independent adult yet. And that’s a pretty special thing, except if you act like adolescence is a destination. And right now, it’s really hard to tell ten and 15 and 20-year-olds apart. That’s not good.
GLENN: I will tell you, it’s sometimes hard to tell parents apart from the 15-year-old.
BEN: Yeah. I mean, we have started to think of life as different consumption opportunities.
We are the richest people at the richest time and place in all of human history. Of course, there are some bumps over the course of the last seven, eight, nine years. But this is a couple decades in the making problem, and it’s going to last for, you know, a half a century in the future.
We are largely unable to feel in our belly the distinction between production and consumption. And that’s new across time and space.
GLENN: Explain — explain the difference.
BEN: So when you work, when you’re needed, when you’re producing something, when you’re serving your neighbor, you do something that is for the benefit of somebody else. Consumption is a different kind of a thing. And lots of consumption is great, right? I mean, there are all sorts of things, that when we consume a fine meal, it is recreating. It revivifies us to go back and serve again.
But we’re not satisfied in life if we just consume more and more stuff. And right now, we’re having a kind of pop cultural sense that we’re drifting toward a world where more and more cotton candy may be good for us. We all know that’s not true.
There’s a two and a seven-minute dopamine hit that feels good, to take more cotton candy. But two and seven hours later, let alone two and seven years later, I never look back and say, “Oh, that was great. I’m glad I did that.”
And, right now, our kids are not developing a work ethic in any sort of intentional way, and it’s our fault that we’re not celebrating scar tissue with them.
GLENN: So let’s go — celebrating scar tissue. This is the kind of stuff that is in this book that you — please go out and buy this book. It is — just that is worth the price of — celebrating scar tissue. What do you mean by that, Ben?
BEN: Well, scar tissue is the foundation of future character, right? At our house, when we get stitches, we throw a little party. Because if we get stitches and it didn’t come with a spinal injury that’s going to have permanent problems for us, we think we got away with something.
My wife and I use the frame — and I want to be clear, we’re not setting our family up as a model in this. We stumble and fall every day. We are sinners. But we have a shared theory of what we’re trying to accomplish, as parents. And we want to get our kids toward an independent adulthood. And so Melissa and I use this idea that a huge part of parenting kids from eight to ten to 12 to 14 to 16 is about training wheel removal exercises. How can we help them get from a place where they need our protective — they need our protection, where they’re still dependent. Get them to a place where they’re independent, so they can live a life of gratitude to God by serving their neighbor and doing something productive.
I’m a no-training wheels guy when I teach my kids to bike. I’m sort of a freak about this. I’ve trained my three kids and a lot of neighborhood kids. I like teaching kids how to ride a bike. But we don’t do training wheels at our house.
The time we bubble wrap them — because I’m critical of bubble wrapping in this book. But when we’re going to teach them how to ride a bike, we wrap them in all their snow gear. Right? They got ski pants and a big winter coat on. We put a hat on them.
And I put the bike, no training wheels, on a slightly declining hill, and I run behind them. And I bat them — I’m straddling the back wheel. And I bat them, shoulder to shoulder to shoulder, trying to let them finally catch their balance. And when they do, it’s like a two-hour learning process. And all of a sudden, they catch their balance a few times, and it’s glorious. Like there’s this moment. And now they can ride a bike.
And the goal of teaching a kid to ride a bike is not for them to have training wheels forever. It’s for them to ride next to you and smell the flowers and have a great workout. And so much of parenting should be about figuring out, how can we take off the training wheels? Let’s protect them as we’re taking them off. But the goal is to get them to independence.
GLENN: Ben, I’ve talked to you several times, and I’ve always been impressed by you. But this is remarkable stuff. And you and your family are going to be added to my family’s nightly prayers.
BEN: Thank you.
GLENN: You have a lot — a lot to teach. Can we jump to a part in the book where you’re talking about the five-foot shelf?
BEN: Yeah. Yeah.
I — the book is structured. One-third is cultural stage setting. Where did this perpetual adolescence come from?
Then the last two-thirds is, let’s think of five things we can do to help our kids realize what it means to be an independent adult. Because it’s not just progressing through grades in school. That’s one of the problems, is that we’ve started to think that what growing up is about is about checking these markers of just grade progression. And mostly school, which is really important, is a tool. It’s a means to an end.
But we want them to get to these certain ends. So the Vanishing American Adult is built around developing a work ethic. It’s about learning to limit consumption. Distinguish among different kinds of consumption and especially know the difference between need and want. Don’t assume that everything you might feel a yearning for, an appetite for, that you might want, that doesn’t make it necessarily a need. How do you learn how to travel? How do you build intergenerational relationships? And to your point, Glenn, how do we learn to be a truly literate people? Not functionally literate. Not, can you read a passage if you sit down to do it? But how can you build appetites, where you want to be a reader?
Because our republic is premised on the idea of deliberation. The ability to be dispassionate and to reflect on other ideas, to persuade or to be persuaded. Not to be in a safe space, but to actually encounter hard and different ideas. And so we built this idea. It’s related to some canon fights. But it’s not really about a one-size-fits-all canon for America. It would be fun to have that discussion too.
But it is, how do I teach my kids to get to a place where they’ve got a shelf of books that they want to read, that they’ve started to read, that they want to go back to again? How do we get them to love both quantity and quality, as they actually become appetitive readers?
GLENN: So, but, for instance, the founding documents, how do you get your kids to want to read those?
BEN: Well, for one thing, you let them understand that there were big debates, right?
We sometimes read these documents, and it feels like they’re Scripture handed down from heaven. And everything about them can start to feel boring because it’s just eternal truth, where there was no dispute.
And so one of the things we do — again, distinguishing quantity and quality. We want them to be addicted to quality. We want them to be formed and shaped by a certain set of books. I sort of made up the idea that the average width of a book is about an inch. And so we call it a five-foot shelf because we wanted to put 60 books on it.
We want our kids to have a 60-book 5-foot shelf, that when they leave home, they’ve already started through these books, and these are books they want to go back to.
Well, it’s fine for us to use quantity as a pathway into quality. When my kids were seven and eight and nine and starting to read, we just wanted them to read more, more, more. And so we let them read stuff that felt a little bit cotton candy-ish. And then once they were developing a real appetite and a desire to read, then we’d start substituting in a little bit more vegetables for some of the ice cream and the cotton candy.
GLENN: So let me go through — some of the books that you say are on your shelf. And it’s different for everybody. C.S. Lewis. Martin Luther. Martin Luther King. All understandable. You put George Orwell, Karl Marx, and Moneyball.
BEN: Well, so first what I tried to do is I wouldn’t let there be more than five books in any particular category. So first I thought about genres. My wife and I got out a bunch of index cards, and we started looking at our shelf and pulling down books that we would say, “This is so important, that even if I think disagree with big pieces of it — so Marx, as an example, or Rousseau’s Emile, which is sort of one of the most interesting books ever written on child rearing, but written by an absolutely despicable person. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, you know, abandoned his own kids at an orphanage so he could have more time to write, and then he had the hubris to write a book about how you would raise kids.
So there are people that I strongly disagree with, but I wanted the criteria to be, this is a book so important that I would want to read it more than twice in my life, and I would want to spend 20 bucks to buy it, to give to other people I love and care about. Because I’d like to frame a debate with them, where we’d keep coming back to some of these ideas.
So we’ve got index cards out, started naming a bunch of our books, started building stacks. We’d name categories, like, you know, sort of fundamental theology, or American history, or founding documents, or markets, or American literature. In each of these, we would only let there be five books. You had to max out in that.
So I was trying to get to 12 categories of five or fewer books. And I just randomly realized that I had a prison lit category. Prison literature, from Mandela to the Apostle Paul to Martin Luther.
GLENN: Martin Luther King.
BEN: To Martin Luther King. A whole bunch of really interesting stuff that’s been written when people were in prison.
And so we just sort of organically built a list. It took weeks and months of haggling at my house as we came up with a list. And our list is totally imperfect. And when people read it, they’re going to want to scream, “My goodness, what’s wrong with you, man? There’s no poetry category on your list. You’re a broken intellect.”
And when people want to start arguing about our boundaries of our list, then I think we’ve succeeded. Because The Vanishing American Adult is not saying I know the one way to parent; it’s that lots of American parents are worried that we’re not parenting well and we don’t have a deliberative context to talk with our friends and neighbors about it. And the purpose of The Vanishing American Adult is to bring people together into conversation, where we argue about this, because we’re all going to do a better job if we’re more intentional about our parenting.
GLENN: So, Ben, you were supposed to come in today. You were going to be with us, but you had a vote that you had to be back for. And I wanted to — you offered to come in and sit with me at 5 o’clock in the morning to do an hour on television.
And I said “no” to that. Because what I would really like to do is see if there’s a time where you and your wife can come in and just talk about this.
I think — I think this is — it is exactly where my head is right now. That we are in a culture of absolute chaos because we don’t know what he is true anymore. And everything is up for grabs. And we have to find our way to putting things back together for our kids. Enough for them to be able to then wrestle with some of these new ideas that are causing chaos.
Can I invite you and your wife to come in together? Would she ever say “yes” to that?
BEN: I like it a lot. In general, she doesn’t like to do media, but for you, on this topic, I think there’s a chance I could twist her arm and persuade her to do it. So let’s talk more about that offline.
One of the things that you said there that I want to completely underscore is the word “virtue.”
You didn’t use it, but you were speaking about it. When people hear virtue right now, that we all get a squeamishness: Oh, that sounds like a highly moralistic tone.
Actually, the root of virtue, it’s from the Latin word for “strength.” And a huge part of what America presupposes is that when we go through hard times, we individuals and we families and we local communities are actually tough enough to navigate lots of these problems. And right now, we have a kind of national drift toward a belief that we’re all so fragile, that, A, these problems probably can’t be solved. And if they can be solved, they’d better be solved by some strongman who says, “I will be your political leader. I can fix everything.”
That is not an American idea. And the truth is, these young people — these teens and 20-somethings — are going to have to be more resilient.
GLENN: They’re the heroic hero generation.
BEN: They have to be more perseverant than anybody before. Because nobody — we’ve never had a time when 40 and 45 and 50-year-olds regularly lost their jobs because of technological change. And that’s the world that our young people are going to enter. We need them to be tough. It’s because we love them that you want them to be gritty, not because you’re trying to harm them, but because you want them to be able to navigate this world and love the true and the beautiful and serve their neighbor.
Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-reliance. You’re going to be hearing a lot of that on this program. Please, go out and buy this book now. This is one that every single American who wants to solve the problems and are tired of looking at the problem in Washington need to put their nose in this book for a while. It will spur you into some action.
Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult. We’ll talk to you again soon, Ben. Thank you so much.
BEN: Great to be with you.
GLENN: You bet. Senator from Nebraska.