Saying she was running for the Democratic nomination for president to effect large-scale societal transformation, the author Marianne Williamson urged students on Tuesday to become involved in the political and primary process, noting that Generation Z will “represent 37% of the voting public in the next election.”
Williamson spoke to more than 100 people at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy as part of its Path to the Presidency series. The event was also livestreamed and co-sponsored by the nonpartisan, student-led Dartmouth Political Union.
Williamson outlined the enormous challenges she said face the United States: a staggering economic inequality, the volatility of climate change, the lack of universal health care and affordable child care, the high incidence of gun violence, and onerous student loan debt which hinders young people from achieving the benchmarks of the American dream that their parents and grandparents did.
“I say we need to turn this around. This is a time of such crisis,” Williamson said, warning that the country was “six inches from the cliff.”
In the 1970s, she said, a family of four could buy a home, live on one parent’s income and afford to send their children to college. Because of the wide income disparities between the rich and the middle class, and the lack of what she called a living minimum wage, that is no longer possible, she said. She cited data showing that one-third of Americans now live on a wage of $15 an hour.
“That is not a thriving middle class. That is a destroyed middle class,” she said.
Williamson— a prolific best-selling writer whose books include Healing the Soul of America: Reclaiming Our Voices as Spiritual Citizens and A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution—said she is in favor of universal health care, paid family leave, canceling student loan debt and ending America’s “war on drugs.”
She criticized both the Republican and Democratic parties for being in thrall to “corporatist elements,” and also found fault with what she termed the “industrial media complex” for covering politics and governance as if it were a horse race.
“The pseudo-intellectual elite would have you believe that the only people you should trust as qualified to drive us out of this ditch are people whose careers have been ensconced in the car that drove us into this ditch,” she said. “I’m running for president because that system will not disrupt itself.”
The solution, or part of it, lies with the voters, Williamson said. “We need a revolution at the ballot box. … In order for this country to genuinely transform, we should see political activism as part of a meaningful life.”
Williamson also ran for president in 2020 and participated in some Democratic debates but dropped out before the New Hampshire primary and later endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
At Dartmouth on Tuesday, she took questions on whether she could, if she became president, disrupt the status quo, given the level of obstructionism in American politics. What would she do to limit or control guns? Why was she running when someone like Sanders had already endorsed President Joe Biden?
On the question of taking on an incumbent president for the Democratic nomination, Williamson offered a spirited rationale. “Show me in the Constitution where it says anything about that? Who says you can’t? That’s the horse race.”
Barbara Adjei ’23, who is interested in family and child policy, has been following Williamson’s campaign for a while: this was the first time she heard Williamson speak in person. “I like a lot of her work and her ideas. America needs more of a bigger picture,” Adjei said after the speech.
Tonia Zakorchemna ’23, a Ukrainian studying public policy and engineering, asked Williamson to outline her ideas for acceptable terms of peace in Ukraine. Williamson responded by lambasting Russian president Vladimir Putin but also criticized the U.S. for “poking the bear,” calling for a Department of Peace.
“I think she made a lot of claims of moral leadership, but I missed the clarity of her approach on that,” said Zakorchemna.
Ignacio “Nacho” Gutierrez ’25, who is majoring in Latin American studies and politics, as well as politics, philosophy and economics, said it was the most interesting Path to the Presidency event that he’d attended to date. “This was very interactive. I felt her responses weren’t cookie cutter. She’s good at extemporaneous speech,” he said.
As a result, Gutierrez said he would consider getting involved in Williamson’s campaign.