Former attorney general Loretta Lynch tells AU audience that ‘truth is under assault’
Lynch spoke about power of civil discourse, her path to success
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke on campus about rebuilding discourse during a currently deep partisan divide on Oct. 19 as part of All-American Weekend, AU’s annual weekend for parents and alumni.
“Reasoned debate has gone the way of partisan shouting,” Lynch said during the event. “The very concept of truth is under assault.”
The event was hosted by the Kennedy Political Union in Bender Arena. In previous years, the organization has brought speakers like actors Gabrielle Union and Tony Goldwyn to campus for the annual weekend.
The first female African-American attorney general, Lynch focused on a range of social justice issues during her tenure in President Barack Obama’s administration. Those issues, including voter disenfranchisement, police-community relations and LGBTQ protections were echoed in her speech.
“We knew that the truth of our constitution demanded equal protection of laws and our history shows us the danger of denying that protection to anyone, particularly marginalized groups,” Lynch said.
She decried state-sponsored discrimination and made clear that the current administration was choosing different goals for their criminal justice efforts. Yet she reaffirmed that in order to create true discourse, both sides must be are heard.
“In this post-truth world, we would do well to remember that there are certain truths that we hold in common, no matter who we are, no matter how we vote, no matter what we look like, no matter whom we love,” Lynch said.
She called upon the audience to search for those values in others they disagreed with, and to engage in open dialogue.
Lynch’s speech coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Political Union. She thanked KPU for its contributions to fostering public debate and discourse on AU’s campus, praising AU for its role in shaping politically active students.
“This is a world class institution, we foster not just academic excellence and a commitment to a life of the mind, but also a commitment to the world outside these walls,” Lynch said.
Following her speech, Lynch took part in a discussion with Washington College of Law professor Angela Davis during which she took questions from several student organizations.
When asked by Women’s Initiative and the AU NAACP about the struggles of marginalized groups under the current administration, Lynch encouraged students to not be dissuaded by politics but to become more involved.
“Learn as much as you can about politics. It’s time to still take those entry-level jobs, don’t shy away from the field,” Lynch said.
She continued by employing the importance of local governance and the power of young people to make change.
“Government is more than who the president is, it absolutely is,” Lynch said. “Law enforcement is more than who the attorney general is. It is so many different layers of people who control our daily lives.”
Outside of the event, student media organizations, including The Eagle, sat down with Lynch for a round table discussion. During the interview, Lynch expanded on her career as a public servant and gave advice for women and people of color looking to take a similar path.
“You look ahead and you try and see is there anyone that has, essentially, broken the barrier before me that I can talk to, or get advice from,” Lynch said. “If there’s not, if there are very few people, it can be very discouraging.”
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Lynch began looking for work as a federal prosecutor.
“It was important for me to look for a place where I saw women doing things that I wanted to do,” Lynch said.
Looking at both of the U.S. Attorney’s offices in New York, Lynch settled on the Brooklyn office because it was there that she saw women “who were practicing law, they were supervisors, they were being promoted up the ranks.”
Lynch also encouraged AU students to appreciate the power that a higher education can provide.
“You guys are at a great school, you're going to have a lot of opportunity, and it’s important to realize that you are going to have opportunities that other students may not. Take them,” she said.