E.J. Dionne is well-known to readers of the Washington Post, where he writes a political column, and to listeners of NPR, where he is frequent contributor. Earlier this summer Ken Becker, chair of the foundation’s board of directors, and his wife Arlene hosted a reception featuring E.J. Dionne Jr., where he spoke to members of the Montgomery College community about the importance of a college education.
On the Role of Community Colleges in the Economy
“Amid the rising prices of college, even public colleges, it is harder and harder for students to afford a full four years,” Dionne said. “For people who can’t afford four years, community college can take the four-year bill and cut it substantially. And, we want students to be able to go to college because it makes a material difference in their lives and in our economy.” He pointed to studies that show that even one or two years of post-secondary education can give people a path to higher-paying jobs.
On the Role of Community Colleges in a Civil Society
“Community colleges can be places where people in the community can come together,” Dionne says. “Community colleges can open their doors not only for people who need job training, not only for people trying to advance themselves in life but for people who are trying to solve problems in their communities, or volunteer groups who need meeting spaces or people who want to incubate to make their communities and neighborhoods better.”
On His Personal Devotion to Community College
Dionne grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts. His mother was a librarian and teacher who was appointed to the board of Bristol Community College at the age of 79. She served on the board until she died at the age of 85. At her memorial service, Dionne remembers people she had taught decades earlier showed up to pay their respects. “All of us can point to someone or a group of people in their lives who made an enormous difference in helping them get to where they wanted to go,” he said. “Often it was a teacher, often it is at a community college.”