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Event Summary

Are millennials really that different than previous generations? In “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance” (St. Martin’s Press, May 2017), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) argues that these debates miss the point. Millennials are different, but the problem is much more serious than many think. Their factory-style education has prevented them from learning the key inputs of being a good citizen: self-sufficiency, independence, and humility. Sen. Sasse joined AEI President Arthur C. Brooks at AEI Tuesday to discuss the book and its implications for modern America.
Naturally, education dominated the conversation. But culture — not policy — was identified as the primary culprit. The fix? A cultural revolution that places the family back at the center of K–12 education.
Yet policy was not entirely absent from the discussion. Sen. Sasse was adamant about reforming the bad policy that plagues the financing of higher education. Both men agreed that too many high school graduates think they have to go to college. Sen. Sasse hypothesized that this “college or bust” motif would not survive far into the 21st century. The demands of the economy, he argued, will force education innovations that disrupt the model. He expressed confidence that bottom-up ideas — such as massive open online courses — would fill the void.
–Austin Peters

Event Description

In his new book “The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance” (St. Martin’s Press, May 2017), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) explores what he views as an existential threat to the American way of life and offers solutions drawn from our singular history and traditions. In the book, Sen. Sasse diagnoses the causes of a generation that cannot grow up — a generation that considers “adulting” going above and beyond what is expected of them — and offers a path for raising children to become active, engaged citizens. He identifies core formative experiences that all young people should pursue: hard work to appreciate the benefits of labor, travel to understand deprivation and want, the power of reading, and the importance of nurturing your body.

Join AEI President Arthur Brooks for a discussion with Sen. Sasse on his book and the state of American society. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

Join the conversation on social media with #SasseAtAEI.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


5:15 PM

5:30 PM
Arthur C. Brooks, AEI
Ben Sasse, US Senate (R-NE)

6:15 PM

6:30 PM
Adjournment and reception

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Laura Lalinde at [email protected], 202.862.5875.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Speaker Biographies

Arthur C. Brooks is president of AEI. He has served as president since January 1, 2009. He is also the Beth and Ravenel Curry Scholar in Free Enterprise. Before joining AEI, Dr. Brooks was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, where he taught economics and social entrepreneurship. Before his work in academia and public policy, he spent 12 years as a classical musician in the United States and Spain. Dr. Brooks is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and the bestselling author of 11 books on topics including the role of government, fairness, economic opportunity, happiness, and the morality of free enterprise. His latest book is the New York Times bestseller “The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America” (Broadside Books, 2015). He has also published dozens of academic journal articles and the textbook “Social Entrepreneurship” (Prentice Hall, 2008). Dr. Brooks has a Ph.D. and an M.Phil. in policy analysis from the Pardee Rand Graduate School. He also holds an M.A. in economics from Florida Atlantic University and a B.A. in economics from Thomas Edison State College.

Ben Sasse is a United States senator representing Nebraska. He was elected in a 2014, winning each of Nebraska’s 93 counties and securing the second-largest margin for a new senator in the history of the state. He came to the Senate having spent the previous five years as a college president. When he was recruited to take over the failing Midland University, he was just 37 years old, making him one of the youngest college presidents in the nation. He has worked with the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey. He earned a bachelor’s at Harvard and a Ph.D. in American history at Yale.

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