Published March 01, 2022 by Rebecca Goldfine

McKeen Visiting Fellow Arthur Brooks Returns to Bowdoin

Arthur C. Brooks, a public intellectual selected in 2019 to be Bowdoin's first Joseph McKeen Visiting Fellow, will be on campus March 2–4, engaging in dialogues about happiness, meaning, faith, and politics with students and community members.

Arthur Brooks
One of two public events Arthur Brooks will be giving at Bowdoin in early March will focus on happiness.

His upcoming visit is part two of his fellowship. He first visited Bowdoin as a McKeen Fellow on November 7–9, 2019, and had originally planned another two- or three-day session the following March. But the pandemic delayed his visit.

Bowdoin's Joseph McKeen Visiting Fellowship was formed in 2019 to bring to campus distinguished scholars "prominent in public discourse" who could "broaden the exploration of the common good." They are expected to give public talks, attend classes, and hold other community events.

When Brooks arrives on March 2, he will give a public keynote address at 7:00 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. Speaking on "life lessons from COVID-19," he will discuss what he believes the pandemic can teach us about becoming happier and better people.

His other public event will occur March 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in Lancaster Lounge. The event will focus on "faith, leadership, and political change" and explore how faith communities can "create meaningful change in America," according to the organizers of his visit.

Brooks poster event

Outside of those two community-focused engagements, Brooks will be meeting with Bowdoin Public Service students, attending classes, and helping to kick off a new Bowdoin Dialogue series on politics. 

Associate Director of the McKeen Center Tom Ancona has been helping to plan the visit. "We are looking forward to the many ways that Arthur will interact with our community in his return to Bowdoin," he said. "His academic expertise, creative exploration of happiness, passion for faith, and devotion to bringing people together will be welcome in public talks, classes, Bowdoin student programs, and more."

Eduardo Pazos, who has served as Bowdoin's Rachel Lord Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, will moderate the community dialogue on faith. He is reaching out to local congregations in the Midcoast area to invite them to the event. 

Pazos said the questions Brooks will raise are good ones for the community to consider. "For the last few years, Brooks has been a leading voice on happiness and making meaning of life," he said. "I read a quote recently from him in which he says, 'No matter what we achieve or attain, our biology always leaves us wanting more. But there is a way out.'"

"He is going to help us ask the bigger questions of life," Pazos continued. "How to focus on happiness, kindness, and compassion—these are really worthwhile questions to explore."

For a decade, Brooks was president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank based in Washington, DC. He stepped down from that position in 2019 to join the faculty of Harvard University, with a joint appointment between the Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. Brooks is also a columnist for The Washington Post and is featured in the documentary film The Pursuit.

He is the author of eleven books, including Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt, which debuted as a national bestseller, as well as the bestsellers The Conservative Heart and The Road to Freedom.

Joseph McKeen Visiting Fellows will be appointed periodically to stimulate conversation and thought about how one can practice community responsibility, active citizenship, and informed leadership through community service and engagement at local, national, and international levels.