Kevin Spacey and Ron Klain talk ethics in Gaston Hall
Award-winning actor and House of Cards star Kevin Spacey and noted politician, Georgetown alum, and adjunct professor, Ron Klain (COL ’83) held a talk this Monday. Hosted by the Lecture Fund in Gaston Hall, the subject of the talk was “Ethics, Power and Politics.”
After a brief introduction, Spacey and Klain were welcomed onstage in Gaston Hall to thunderous applause as students witnessed Spacey enter sporting a Georgetown sweatshirt.
The talk began with Klain asking Spacey: “Do the ends justify the means?” Throughout the night the two explored this question in depth, with special attention to modern American politics and the modern-day portrayal of ethics in theater, film, and media.
Spacey mentioned several times that the seemingly savage and brutal portrayal of American politics in his show House of Cards is not actually that far from the truth. “I’ve had more people say they think House of Cards is closer [to the state of democracy in the US],” said Spacey. “Our scripts are not that crazy,” he added later.
The two also pointed to the allure of evil, especially its development in theater and film. Spacey talked about his experience playing Shakespeare’s Richard III. He said how the audience was always entranced by his character and his brutal methods to gain power, until his character started killing people, at which point the audience would proceed to watch with horror as the events continued to unfold. “Welcome to the world of human contradiction,” Spacey said.
Klain and Spacey further reflected on the good that can come out of being unethical. Spacey pointed to the actions taken by Abraham Lincoln to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, including practically selling political offices for votes.
Spacey talked about his acting career in relation to ethical questions. “I like to be able to do the best job that I can in telling the story and allowing the audience to make up their minds in how they feel,” he said.
He added that he is grappling with these same questions of ethics as everyone else, and that it is up to today’s generation to define right and wrong now. Yet he was still hopeful for the American political system, saying “I do believe it can be such an incredible force for good.”
After the main discussion came a Q&A section in which students could ask Spacey and Klain questions about the lecture, or even just about House of Cards.
The discussion itself ended ambiguously, however, as Spacey finally answered the original question; “So, do the ends justify the means? Maybe.”
Photo: Georgetown Voice