It’s tempting to blame partisan politics for last summer’s debacle over “death panels” and the very idea of doctors and patients holding conversations about the end of life. But the truth is: these conversations are difficult. Although some people welcome them, others approach the subject of death cautiously. Many of us would rather not explore what awaits us in the final years or weeks of life. Perhaps this reluctance explains why only one in five Americans has completed an advance directive for medical care.
By all accounts, the crowd that gathered outside the temporary quarters of the Roman governor in Jerusalem on a Friday morning 2,000 years ago whipped itself, or was whipped by skilled political operatives, into an angry frenzy.
Unmanned drones have become the weapon of choice in the Obama administration, which launched more drone attacks in nine months than the Bush administration did in three years. When it comes to attacking al-Qaeda, said CIA director Leon Panetta, drones are “the only game in town.”
Abraham haunts me. When I wrote my first Faith Matters column in 1997, I began with those three words. At that time I was in transition—moving from Maryland to North Carolina, and from a faculty position teaching undergraduates at Loyola College in Maryland to a position as dean of Duke Divinity School.
Since 1988 there have been ten major party candidates for the office of U.S. president. Except for Bob Dole and John McCain, they all attended elite, private colleges, and seven of those eight also went to elite professional schools. All eight of them went to Harvard or Yale at some point—both of the Bushes, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama, and Romney. Of the 14 presidential nominees between 1948 and 1984, the heyday of public universities, only three went to elite private colleges and only two attended Harvard or Yale, with a third candidate having gone to Princeton. Harry Truman didn’t go to college and Barry Goldwater didn’t finish college. Lyndon Johnson went to Southwest Texas State Teachers College, Richard Nixon to Whittier College, and Ronald Reagan to Eureka College (William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, Free Press).