The Real David Brooks

by Stephanie McFeeters | 6/13/15 5:53am

Disclaimer: This copycat faux biography — modeled after one our Commencement speaker David Brooks wrote many, many years ago — is unoriginal and possibly professionally reckless, but what do you expect from a youngster like me? These days we aren’t taught to think for ourselves.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, not to be confused with The Dartmouth columnist David Brooks ’15, was born on August 11, 1961 in Toronto. He indulged in his first and last moment of uninhibited frolic on August 12 and published a Burkean analysis of “Goodnight Moon” on the 17th.

Brooks, born with a natural disposition toward shallowness and condescension, spent most of his infancy critiquing himself in the mirror and chiding his parents for their lack of discipline. By the time he had learned to count, he was pining for the way things were, before analog abaci and the dissolution of American morality.

Brooks attended pre-K at the School of Sidewalk Sociology, where he sang nursery rhymes about the seven deadly sins and used an Etch-A-Sketch to extol the virtues of solemnity, suffering and shame. It was there, with Duplos and some of Tocqueville’s early journal entries, that Brooks really began to construct his personal moral architecture.

His next bit of schooling was done at Radnor, where he pursued a multidisciplinary curriculum in higher and Higher pleasures. And where, naturally, he made the high honor roll — which, caring nothing for success, he naturally neglected to include on his resume. While at the University of Chicago, he majored in boundless optimism and everyman pontificating. It was there in Hyde Park that Brooks realized sleeping around is spiritual suicide, earning an honorary degree in matrimonial sciences — a prized possession to this day.

As those who read The New York Times know, life for Mr. Brooks since then has been anything but dull. Paid to be, in his own words, a “narcissistic blowhard,” Brooks preaches on everything from poverty to Purpose, mixing the wisdom of Aristotle and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Twice a week he is in the habit of writing pseudo-conservative columns and making readers feel ethically inferior. Some of these columns have been honored with an esteemed place on a Yale University syllabus alongside works by Augustine and Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a course Brooks himself teaches, called “Humility.” Meanwhile his commencement speeches are reserved for putting coddled, myopic, prestige-obsessed kids in their place and flattering fit yoga moms — who somehow always weigh less than those aforementioned damn kids.

During his time at this College, Mr. Brooks will speak from behind the Lone Pine podium, explaining how this is our moment, yet making clear that none of this is in any way about us: so stop Snapchatting your mom and listen up! Perhaps he will suggest we live a small happy life, or learn from our mistakes, or check the motivations behind our moral fervor. He might tell us: “Every generation has an opportunity to change the world.” But we’ve squandered it.

He certainly won’t tell us to trust ourselves, or listen to ourselves, or follow our passions, or glorify the Golden Figure inside — that’s bogus commencement-speaker talk. Instead, he will likely remind us that we are made of crooked timber and that we will undoubtedly screw everything up.

Some would say I’m envious of Mr. Brooks. But if truth be known, I just want a job and have a peculiar way of asking. So how about it, Dave? Can you ask The Gray Lady to spare a dime? Really, just a dime or two will do. You can call me “intern” until I’m 32. I worked at Harper’s for free. Promise I won’t sue!