Banter with Ben

Shelley Blundell

Actor Stein discusses his family, President Bush

Actor, comedian, writer and college professor Ben Stein speaks to fans at Kent State Stark Campus yesterday evening. During his speech, Stein kept the audience laughing with stories about his son, but he also spoke about serious issues, such as the War i

Credit: Steve Schirra

As an actor, lawyer, author, columnist, professor and political adviser, one might easily believe Ben Stein’s capabilities border on the supernatural.

But, as Stein revealed to Stark County area high school students in a video conference yesterday afternoon, he is very much human.

Coming to the video conference with stomach medicine and cough drops and dressed in his traditional “business casual” attire of a suit and comfy shoes, Stein revealed to the high school students he had learned that morning his son had been expelled from high school for drinking in the prep school’s dormitory.

But, as one might imagine of Stein’s easy-going demeanor we’ve all come to appreciate, he took the news in stride and maintained he would work to ensure his son did not wreck his life – just like any other parent would.

The questions from the high school students covered a wide range of areas, with one student requesting and receiving a brief chant of “Bueller” from Stein, to a question about Stein’s views on the media. And boy, does he have a viewpoint.

“We have got to get a media that focuses on everything,” Stein said, adding that he believes the American media is far too liberal and doesn’t acknowledge the positive good that has occurred in the United States since the end of World War II.

Tying in the symbolic nature of Rosa Parks’ funeral yesterday with his ideas on the progress made by America in all spheres in the latter part of the 20th century, Stein felt the media often unfairly compared the United States with terrorist states.

“What we see in the media is no recognition – of the great triumph of a free society,” Stein said, a point he elaborated on in his main speech later on that evening.

“I’m a Jew – I could have been captured by Nazis and gassed like a roach – instead I’m waking up in a nice hotel – waiting for my room service breakfast.”

As Stein covered various areas of his life, particularly his political and entertainment careers, he described his “Hollywood” experience as being by far the easiest experience he has had in his diverse career.

“Practicing law is like being a ditch digger compared to acting,” Stein said.

While Stein’s diverse career is the envy of many in both politics and entertainment, he still feels his greatest accomplishments are being a devoted husband and a patient father, and says the two most inspiring people in his life were his father and father-in-law.

Stein also acknowledged that nothing he has achieved in his life could have been accomplished without hard work and discipline – something he says all people in America, no matter what their economic station in life, need to realize if they hope to be successful.

“I feel the real problems in society concern inequality, especially between African-Americans and non-African Americans,” Stein said.

Stein also said he felt Bush’s economic policies were not to blame for fluctuations in the stability of the economy. Considering the recession and a stock market crash he inherited from former President Bill Clinton, Bush did quite well with his economic policies, he said. He encouraged Americans to look to the practices of other successful people in the United States to find the real keys to success – a sound work ethic, determination and study.

While many of us always will associate Stein with his cult status from productions such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or “Wonder Years,” he is much more than just a man with a lot of jobs. He is a family man, an accomplished author of both fiction and non-fiction, a political resource and a journalist in his own right.

But above all, he is human.

Contact features reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].