David Brooks speaking at podium in First Free Methodist Church

“Seattle Pacific was the first Christian college I ever visited,” said David Brooks in his opening remarks to the SPU community in April.

In the private campus event for SPU students, faculty, and staff on April 11, the New York Times columnist and author was invited to speak as part of an ongoing series of what President Porterfield is calling “courageous conversations that bridge barriers and open dialogue.” Brooks shared from his latest New York Times bestseller “How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen.” 

The book draws on a wide array of fields and disciplines and Brook’s personal stories to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of human connection while offering practical ways to “find the joy that comes from being seen.” 

His talk echoed a main theme of his book: How to develop better interpersonal skills such as listening, observing, and having more intentional conversations. 

“Especially in hard conversations, keep the gem statement in the center,” Brooks said. “If you’re disagreeing passionately with somebody about something, there’s probably something deep down you would agree upon. And that’s the gem statement. If my brother and I are fighting about our dad’s health care, we might fight about that, but we want what’s best for our dad.” 

Brooks also talked about character formation, something President Porterfield emphasized in her inauguration address. For his earlier book, The Road to Character, Brooks went around the country to mostly secular schools asking faculty for their advice on developing character in their students. 

“I got very abstract answers, and then I went to my wife’s alma mater, Wheaton,” Brooks said, of the Christian college in Wheaton, Illinois. “They gave me very practical and detailed knowledge of how current [character] formation works; what the souls of their students are hungry for.”  

“[Christian colleges] are different because, in my view, the relationship between the faculty and the students is different,” Brooks said. “At Yale, when my colleagues talk about their students, they never talk about undergrads. They talk about the graduate students.”

Earlier in the day, Brooks met with members of SPU’s General Education Committee, who have been working on revisions to the general education curriculum.

This was Brook’s third visit to campus. He was the keynote speaker at SPU’s Downtown Business Breakfast in 2004 and again in 2012. Brooks credits his visits to Christian universities and colleges as instrumental to him becoming a Christian in 2013. 

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