Political strategist James Carville teaches first class as LSU professor
After one student said she was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, James Carville interrupted first class introduction traditions with what he called the “anthem of socialist America,” Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
“You will be subjected to any number of crazed rants by me,” Carville said in class.
The political strategist led his first class as a Manship School of Mass Communication professor on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in Campbell B. Hodges Hall.
Carville, a University and LSU Law Center graduate, served as former president Bill Clinton’s senior political adviser in 1992, and has run campaigns in over 23 countries. Carville taught at Tulane University in New Orleans for nine years.
Carville’s upper level political communication seminar on contemporary American politics focuses largely on current events. Carville said he will heavily emphasize Louisiana guest speakers to generate students’ curiosity about the state’s unique culture.
“You live among people that have done great things with their lives,” Carville said.
Carville resumed introductions, pacing across the room and occasionally snapping a cane-like stick on the floor or against a student’s desk.
He told a student inquiring about test schedules that his class is not about predictability.
Carville once again paused introductions to play Johnny Rivers’ “Summer Rain” as his wife, renowned political consultant Mary Matalin, arrived, deeming himself an “incurable romantic.”
Carville said he wants the University to become more relevant and is looking forward to teaching more Louisiana natives. As a professor at the flagship university, he said the more he inspires his students to be curious, “the better state I make.” He called his students to strengthen the University and “get serious” about Louisiana’s coastline, or “we’re all going to wash out in the gulf.”
Carville’s ultimate goal for his course, he said, is to impress on his students a “driving sense of curiosity.” He challenged students to continuously surround themselves with smarter, more interesting people. He also warned against confirmation bias and includes in his curriculum politically diverse media outlets.
“Most news exists not to inform you, but validate you,” Carville said. “I will not allow you to go into your ideological safe spot.”
Carville said he is most looking forward to learning from his students and fully intends to learn more than he will teach.
“If you learn more from me than I learn from you, then it’s a waste of time,” Carville said. “I’m not through learning yet.”
He ended the class by addressing one student’s question about the state of American politics by citing what he ranks the best political movie ever made: Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” He said the movie’s brilliance lies in its focus on the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment instead of solely on Lincoln, as it emphasizes the “gritty” business of politics.
Carville said the power of a politician lies in his or her ability to inspire people through their words. He concluded his response and his class by encouraging students to think for themselves.
“Don’t ask me what I think,” Carville said. “For the rest of your life, it’s pretty irrelevant.”