Nearly every seat in Dodd Auditorium was full on Tuesday, Oct. 20, as economist and actor Ben Stein spoke about the current state of the country’s economy as part of the Fredericksburg Forum.
“I want this to be your take away,” he said to the crowd of UMW students and Fredericksburg residents, “All recessions have this in common: they end.”
Local economist Judy Shelton, a contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal, hosted the event.
Shelton introduced Stein as a “national treasure” and a “true American original.”
Stein infused humor into an otherwise bleak topic.
When he wasn’t speaking, the audience was laughing hysterically or applauding. There was rarely a silent moment during the hour and a half that Stein was speaking and answering questions.
Early in the lecture, Stein professed his love for the city of Fredericksburg and UMW, telling the audience that during his short visit “you’ve made me feel like part of your Mary Washington family.”
“I thought Stein’s lecture was very funny and very heart felt, at the extremes,” says junior Hannah Miller.
He discussed everything from the “heroic measures” it will take to rescue the economy to his experience on his short-lived Vh1 show America’s Most Smartest Model.
Stein proved that he knows what he’s talking about early on, yet he explained even the most complicated ideas in a colloquial manner. Some of the most interesting aspects of the speech were when he was talking about life after college for upcoming graduates.
Stein elected to go the honest route, stating “The situation is extremely challenging […] there are no jobs out there unless you’re going to work for your parents or the government.”
However, he ended on a more optimistic note. “We will get out of this. We always do,” he said.
According to Stein, two of the many problems the government faces as it tries to rebuild the economy are a shortage in consumer confidence and the irresponsible behavior of the very people who are supposed to be solving the problem.
He made a plea for the “responsible sector of the public,” asking “Where are the grownups?”
Stein ended his actual speech with John F. Kennedy’s quotation, “God’s work is our work,” and then took questions from the audience.
The audience’s questions covered everything from the motivation behind Stein’s personal ideology to a request for him to reenact his famous scene from “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off,” which he did without hesitation.
Throughout his speech, Stein also made sure to define the difference between celebrities and “real stars.”
“The real stars are the military, police, firefighters, teachers, and parents. Salvation of the country will come from the heart of America,” he said.
His patriotism and love for America was illustrated in nearly everything he said. When asked what his biggest fear for the country is, Stein said he was afraid that “We’ll forget we have the best society there’s ever been.”