James Carville, one of the country’s most recognizable political pundits, advised students about how to approach failure and success Monday afternoon.
Carville spoke in the fourth annual Michael Jurist Lecture, dedicated in memory of Michael Jurist (SFS ’07), a former president of the Georgetown University Lecture Fund.
Carville’s success as former President Bill Clinton’s (SFS’68) campaign manager in the 1992 presidential election propelled him into the spotlight with trademark slogans such as, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
Carville brought his trademark charisma to the Hilltop, engaging students to think about — and subsequently do away with — their five-point plans and fears of failure.
“I’m gonna bore you and tell you a couple lessons I’ve learned in life,” Carville said. “Knowing what to do is the easiest part of life. Getting it done is the hard part.”
Carville also emphasized the importance of letting go of failure as the beginning of any route to success, whether political or otherwise.
“Someone at Georgetown’s got a five-point plan to save the world,” Carville said. “The worst reason someone can give you to not do something is [that] you might fail. You will never, ever succeed in life unless you’re willing to risk failure.”
Carville identified a key pattern at the root of all narratives, all of which he said begin with a lead, state a problem and reach a conclusion.
“Every piece of communication that you’ve ever read, will read, has existed, has one thing in common: setup, conflict [and] resolution … there’s no instance where it’s going to fail.”
Carville applied his theory about stories to political strategy.
“When you’re starting a movement, don’t try to change the way people think,” he said. “You can’t. It’s evolutionary.”
Carville also expressed admiration for politicians’ courage.
“Some people go to work everyday and aren’t sure if what they’re doing is making a difference,”Carville said. “I actually like politicians … they dare to fail publicly.”
Carville tried to advise students by joking about his own experiences with failure.
“Get out there. Go for it. The worst thing ever? You make a fool of yourself. I’ve done it a gazilliontimes,” Carville said. “What a great time to go out in the world — when everything is screwed up.”
Though Carville mostly imparted advice to students throughout his talk, during the question-and-answer session he touched on his expertise in politics. He discussed how southern Democrats could regain their prominence in the post-Clinton era.
“For a long time, there was this talk about who was going to get Bubba,” Carville said. “And guess what, the Democrats lost it. What price did they pay for that? We gave up high school white males and gained educated white women. Do we risk this growing demographic that we have now? No, we don’t.”