If there is one certainty from this year's Presidential election campaign, it is that there is unparalleled anger afoot in our land; some even say rage - about immigrants, Black Lives and Police Lives, and even the American flag.
Of course, there is always the economy. The recovery has been slow. More seem to be left behind; the middle is under water. The disparity, both in income and wealth, is growing. The ladder to success seems to have rungs missing. And in a world suffused with social media, the disparities and the discontent are on full view, again and again.
It is altogether appropriate that we engage in a great debate, with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump and their respective party platforms offering different visions on how the American economic enterprise is to advance. Is the solution loosening restrictions and regulations, thereby encouraging the wealthy to invest more, believing that a rising tide lifts all the boats? Will more jobs, and more wealth, be created through more government regulation and mandated programs, higher minimum wage, and infrastructure investment?
Yet, this debate represents a totally incomplete analysis of the current national zeitgeist. Without the full diagnosis, prescriptions for change fall short.
Indeed, it's not just "the economy, stupid." There exists a more profound societal virus, one that infects rich and poor alike. There is a tear in the social compact, both individual and communal. Some term it a crisis of faith, some an existential loneliness, some a paucity of purpose. There is a rapid erosion of community, a loss of pride and purpose, a vacancy in vision. In earlier times, of even a decade ago, it would take a village. But we as a people live less and less in villages. We tend to huddle alone in our caves.
The American Dream cannot be purchased at Walmart or Wall Street. It's not what we are worth, but rather whether our lives have worth. It means not just that we are enabled to make money, but we are ennobled in how we want to invest and spend our wealth. Life is about more.
America needs to remind itself that the pursuit of happiness is about core ideals, and in a diverse society, a plethora of core ideals. It's about community and comity of purpose, the gift of responsibility, the sense of integrity that comes upon people when the pieces of their lives come together. It's about faith and the value of values.
As President of Yeshiva University - an institution built and propelled forward by an unwavering commitment to faith and a values-centric education - I know the pivotal role a college campus can play in repairing the magnificent tapestry that defined our United States for so long.
Our students grow in an academically rich environment, with a rigorous immersion in the world of ideas, and an appreciation of the arts and sciences, business and our timeless story. There exists an enormous and ongoing discussion among all students in the country. They are equipped for serious success in the world.
Key to this as well is the development of community. Extra-curricular life brings students and faculty together in all kinds of activity. The students serve as tutors and mentor to inner city youth, participate in service learning projects throughout the world, respond to the Baton Rouge crisis with missions of recovery. They reach beyond themselves.
It's still there, the American Dream. We can and must rebuild the village, and yes, multiple villages. So let us embrace a Great Conversation about who we are and how we are. Let's focus on a mandate to matter, a sense of meaning, great ideas, trust, noble aspirations, and worthy ideals. This cannot come from just a healthy economy but from rebuilding the social compact, from rebuilding a sense of common humanity, a community of communities, and the lift of a driving dream.