I was honored to have British MP and former Culture Minister David Lammy speak and take questions in my arts leadership class this evening. The Labour party member who is expected to seek higher office, spoke of the transformative role choral singing played in his development as a young man. Lammy emphasized that art teaches excellence through consistent, hard work. It was this discipline that lead him to the life he could scarcely dream of growing up in Tottenham.
Lammy, who now represents that same Tottenham constituency which was wracked by riots in 1985 and again in 2011, asserted that it is especially important for disadvantaged young people to know that opportunities come from excellence achieved through diligence.
In a far-ranging talk without notes, he went on to discuss two meta-trends that shape the current political and economic landscape: social liberalism and economic liberalism.
Social liberalism brought us the civil rights movements for blacks, women and gay people. While society is more fair and just, these movements may contribute to an individualized world view (what is good for me, rather than what is good for us).
Economic liberalism, which allows private enterprise to expand the economy (positive) while amassing profits without regulation or conscience, has brought the world to the brink of economic collapse (obviously, negative).
Lammy challenged students to build a new world that incorporates the best of social and economic liberalism while rejecting the hyper-individualized society they spawned.
What that new and better world will look like is not yet known but Lammy says, artists will be the first to see and describe it.