Chomsky Draws a Crowd
Eric Athas
Daily News Tribune (Waltham, MA), January 18, 2008
WALTHAM - Take away the movie screen backdrop, cupholders and popcorn and Noam Chomsky's talk at Landmark Embassy Theater last night could have been mistaken for an episode of "60 Minutes."

In front of CSpan's cameras, Back Pages Books' owner Alex Green asked Chomsky a wide range of questions in a sit-down interview in theater Number 6.

About 170 spectators filled Embassy's second-largest theater and listened intently as the world-renowned author and linguist talked about politics, the media and how the world has changed over the last several decades.

"When I was growing up as a kid I considered my self a leftist, We played cowboys and Indians. We were the cowboys." Kids nowadays don't do that, he said.

Chomsky pointed the increase in technology and the overall growth of the country as changes in civilization.

"This is the peak of science and technology and the arts all around the world," said Chomsky, a professor at MIT. "It has become quite different than it was."

He said the world faces many serious issues, such as nuclear weapons, environmental catastrophes and a pandemic, but that there are also positive aspects of the modern world.

"It's a much more civilized society than it was 30 or 40 years ago," said Chomsky. "You can be pessimistic if you'd like and look at the golden days."

At one point, he touched upon how young Americans have a difficult time deciding how to make the world a better place.

"We have a tremendous amount of freedom," said Chomsky. "The problem that young people face is that there's too much to choose from."

Chomsky mentioned that people have the choice to look at the world in either an optimistic or pessimistic viewpoint.

Green, 25, a Brandeis alumnus, put together the event in about six weeks. After the talk, Green said the event was to start a conversation with Chomsky.

"The community is here and (Chomsky's) here because they all want to have a discussion," Green said.

Green said he chose Embassy, instead of one of the area colleges as the setting, because it sits in the heart of Waltham.

"I wanted somewhere central and downtown," said Green. "Waltham is tremendous place in the history of America and where America is going."

A connection between Chomsky and Waltham was one of the ways Green said he was able to get the linguist to the city last night.

Bev Stohl, Chomsky's assistant at MIT, is a Waltham native.

"I think it was fabulous," said Stohl. "It was wonderful for a group from a specific area to ask about international affairs laced with local affairs."

Stohl said the format of last night's dialogue is typically what Chomsky takes part in, an introductory chat followed by audience involvement.

Although Stohl was excited to have Chomsky talk in her hometown, it was her mother, Charlotte Boisseau, who was ecstatic.

"I am just thrilled," said Boisseau, who has lived in Waltham for about 50 years. "I couldn't wait to come."

Boisseau added it was interesting for Chomsky to mention experiences that were linked to the time period she grew up in.

Other local residents were just as pleased to have the author visit the city for a few hours.

"To have (Chomsky) here in Waltham is terrific," said Gail Rundlett, of Waltham. "I just didn't wanna miss an opportunity to see him."

Marilyn Rea Beyer, of Lexington, also made a trip over to Embassy last night.

She was impressed at how Chomsky is able to present his knowledge in a clear manner. "(Chomsky's) such an intellectual powerhouse," she said. "So articulate."