Author and New York Times columnist David Brooks and author and journalist Anne Snyder, his wife, will speak twice in overlapping events this week in Waco.
Brooks will talk with Alan Jacobs of Baylor’s Institute for the Studies of Religion in a Monday night conversation titled “Roads and Mountains: A Conversation With David Brooks” while Snyder will address Baylor students Monday morning in Chapel.
The two will take part in Mission Waco’s fundraiser and forum “Communities of Character in an Age of Outrage” Tuesday morning at the Waco Convention Center with each speaking for 45 minutes followed by a lunch dialogue. Funds raised from the forum will go to Mission Waco and the Texas Christian Community Development Network, both organizations founded by Jimmy Dorrell.
Brooks, best known for his conservative, often centrist social and political commentary as a New York Times op-ed columnist and a commentator on public broadcasting, has spoken at Baylor in the past, including in a 2017 conversation with then-President Ken Starr.
His Waco appearance this time, however, comes as a result of Snyder’s contact with Mission Waco and its founder Jimmy Dorrell. Dorrell said he met Snyder several years ago when she was in Texas working with the H.E. Butt Foundation and its Laity Lodge. They kept in touch and their paths occasionally crossed at conferences involving community development and ministry, philanthropy and faith, Dorrell said.
Brooks and Snyder also made a surprise visit to the Church Under the Bridge led by Dorrell this spring, following their attendance at a friend’s wedding in the area. Dorrell later met Snyder at a May meeting of the Aspen Institute’s Weave: The Social Fabric Project, led by Brooks, and invited them to speak at the Mission Waco fundraiser forum. Jacobs said Brooks had a standing invitation to return to Baylor, and the Mission Waco visit enabled his Baylor appearance.
Snyder serves as editor-in-chief of Comment magazine and director of the Philanthropy Roundtable’s Character Initiative. She recently published the book “The Fabric Of Character: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Social and Moral Renewal.”
As Brooks wrote in his latest book “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life,” Snyder played a pivotal role in his gradual turn away from an earlier atheism to believing in the importance of faith and the spiritual in his life. They had met when she worked as a New York Times researcher, and in the years after Brooks’ divorce from his wife of 27 years, the two broadened that professional relationship to a personal one. They married in 2017.
In “The Second Mountain,” Brooks continues the exploration of character development found in, among other things, his best-selling books “The Social Animal” and “The Road To Character.” In his latest book, that exploration becomes more spiritual, relational and personal.
The second mountain of the book’s title refers to the more satisfying, deeper life that many have found after climbing a first mountain of career or personal achievement, only to find that accomplishment an empty one. He sees the first mountain an individualist achievement where the desires of ego are met, the second a relationalist one that fills desires of the heart and soul, realized in community and a higher purpose.
“He has been making this move for several years now. He’s gotten less and less interested in the day-to-day of electoral politics,” said Jacobs, a Baylor distinguished professor of the humanities. “I think fairly early on he saw the heatedness and the anger of our political environment has a lot to do with the people we are.”
Jacobs said Monday’s discussion may touch on the work of values and character formation, or Brooks’ own personal journey of faith.
“I want to ask … what happens when people achieve what they wanted?” he said. “Is it possible to climb the second mountain? … Most people don’t climb the first.”
“Roads and Mountains: A Conversation With David Brooks” will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Baylor Club in McLane Stadium, 1001 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Admission is free, and the conversation will be streamed live at baylorisr.org.
Tuesday’s “Communities of Character in an Age of Outrage” will start at 10 a.m. at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave. Admission is $40, and registration is available at https://missionwaco.brushfire.com.
The Tuesday morning forum will follow another Mission Waco event at the Waco Convention Center. The annual Champions of Christian Service Breakfast, featuring former Baylor track coach Clyde Hart, will take place at 6:45 a.m. Tickets are $50, and the deadline to buy them is Monday morning.