During his lecture on Friday afternoon, filmmaker and author Michael Moore demonstrated an acute sense of his audience and location. Not only did he acknowledge that Georgetown has been or will be host to such conservative figureheads as Karl Rove and Ann Coulter, but he drew a political parallel that would make Hoyas from any corner of the political spectrum crack a smile. When discussing the voting patterns of young people, he explained why so few 18- to 25-year-olds bothered to vote in the 2010 midterm elections.
“[Obama]’s been playing it like Georgetown football,” he said. The crowd erupted with laughter, whoops, and applause.
That kind of situational awareness was a big part of what made Moore’s presentation, entitled “Here Comes Trouble: An Evening with Michael Moore,” so engaging. During the lecture, which was sponsored with its share of public chagrin by the Georgetown Lecture Fund, Georgetown Program Board, and the Student Activities Commission, Moore was equal parts cynically joking and unsettling serious as he discussed public policy, Christian values, and America’s financial and social woes. He structured the entire evening with such a smooth narrative arc and call to action for young people to repair the nation that it reminded the crowd why he has an Oscar lying around somewhere in his house.
Since he is, of course, the maker of such politically-minded, left-bent films as Farenheit 9/11 and Sicko, Moore spent a good deal of the speech addressing the what he believed to be the flaws and hypocrisies inherent in America’s version of “21st Century capitalism.” He launched into this by bringing up the recent Occupy Wall Street campaign, and expanded into the mortgage crisis, job crisis, and other financial woes by summing up the problem with a single, unifying source.
“We, as Americans, have allowed a very small group of people to be avid practitioners of one of the seven deadly sins,” he said. “Of course, that sin is greed.”
The theme of Christianity, likely because of his Catholic school upbringing and audience of students at the nation’s oldest Jesuit institution, was a common thread throughout Moore’s presentation. He told his own, somewhat humorous version of the Biblical story of how to get into heaven—heal the sick, feed the hungry, and so on—and called his audience to wonder why how, like he addressed in his most recent film, Sicko, 50 million people in what many call a “Christian” nation live without healthcare.
“I call it Christianized medicine,” Moore said of a system like that which Canada employs. “What do you think Jesus would do?”
It was this vacillation between the silly—he frequently employed funny voices and made cracks about Americans disrespecting Canada—and the serious, where his voice suddenly lost its humor and he occasionally yelled in indignation into the microphone, that characterized Moore’s address. And, as was expected, he did shock his audience a few times, mostly in the two f-bombs he echoed through the hallowed halls of Gaston (which he really shouldn’t have been so apologetic over—we do show The Exorcist in there ever year).
Although Moore encouraged even his conservative audience members to listen and to ask him questions (one of whom actually did), there was somewhat of a sense that Moore was preaching to the choir. He addressed this homogeneity, when he asked every audience member with a 4.0 grade point average to raise his/her hand.
“I guess the smart kids go see Karl Rove, don’t they?” he laughed when not a single hand went up.
But despite his political commentary and social message, Moore did have an ulterior motive—promotion of his recently released book, Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life. For the final portion of his speech, he moved from his stance behind the podium to a chair in the middle of the stage to read the story of his being elected to his school board at the age of 18, one clearly chosen to encourage a college audience to take political matters into their own hands.
As he walked across the stage, he requested that he get some music to lead him over. The crowd responded with a few suggestions, and eventually landed on the classic “Hoya Saxa” cheer. Apparently, nobody was too mad at him for cursing in Gaston.
Photo by Jackson Perry.