(AV17665) Politics, Policy and the Reality of Leadership


good evening I’m Diane by sturm and I’m
the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for women in politics at Iowa
State University and on behalf of the center it’s my great pleasure to welcome
you to tonight’s lecture by the 21st Mary Louise Smith chair and women in
politics noted journalist Gwen Ifill the chair was actually announced in 1995 to
honor the Iowa native and longtime political and civic leader
Mary Louise Smith who was the first and only woman to chair the Republican
National Party she was a mentor friend and role model to many in the world of
politics and civic government in the community affairs and for any of you who
know Mary Louise or knew of her she passed away in 1997 she was the epitome
of a civil leader and again really just a great friend of politics and women
through the chair the Kat Center is able to bring prominent women leaders such as
Gwen Ifill to campus once or twice a year to speak with members of the
University and local communities to inspire us and engage us in the
political process Wednes visit to Iowa State is also part
of the Martin Luther King jr. holiday celebration on campus and as part of the
celebration her visit is supported and co-sponsored by several organizations
including the black Graduate Student Association the College of Agriculture
and life science the College of Design the College of Engineering the college
of human sciences the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Miller lecture friend
Women’s Leadership Consortium Women’s Studies Program and the Committee on
lectures which is funded by the government of the student body
introducing Gwen tonight is Amanda orach a senior from Storm Lake Iowa majoring
in journalism with a public relations emphasis looking for a job right now and
she’s a great intern so I’ll tell you that she’s a valued member of the cats
on her student staff which actually includes eight students to graduate
students and six undergraduate students with whom help we could not run the
Carrie Chapman Catt center among Manas may many duties as a public relations
intern at the Kat Center is the planning and promotion that goes into the Mary
Louise Smith event so I asked her to to introduce Gwen tonight because of her
involvement in that event so please welcome Amanda thanks for the
plug Diane good evening it is both an honor and a privilege to introduce to
introduce tonight’s featured speaker Gwen Ifill she is not only an admired
journalist and best-selling author but also a role model for young women
everywhere a native of New York City she graduated from Simmons College in Boston
with a major in communications currently she is the moderator in moderate
managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for the PBS
Newshour before coming to PBS in 1999 she was the
chief congressional and political correspondent for NBC News White House
correspondent for The New York Times and a local and national reporters for such
newspapers as the Washington Post the Baltimore Evening Sun and the Boston
Herald American her work as a journalist has been honored by many including the
radio and television news Directors Association
evany magazine and Boston’s Ford hall forum adept at handling complex issues
and different sometimes opposing personalities
she has moderated several political debates including the first presidential
debate during the 2004 presidential campaign between Dick Cheney and John
Edwards and the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin in the
2008 campaign a notable journalist with a long career
she has received more than 20 honorary doctorates and currently serves on the
boards on the boards of the news literacy project and the Committee to
Protect Journalists she is a fellow with the American Academy of Sciences please
join me in welcoming to Iowa State University the spring 2011
Mary Louise Smith chair and women in politics Gwen Ifill thank you thank you hire her what she said thank
you I’m thrilled to be here I feel like I have to start by saying that Diane
will tell you that it’s true that we’ve tried to get here a couple times and
each time something comes up so finally she employed my best friend Michele
Norris she she told her Michele was like but you have to go I said I know I know
I have to go I’m gonna go I’m going I’m going no but they’re really nice they’re
they really treat you well and so before Michele six your children on me I
decided I would have to come I am I am thrilled to be here I’ve had a lovely
day today I’ve been already talking to students and finding out things and
trying to pick everybody’s brain about 2012 and don’t think I won’t do it to
you too because I love coming back to Iowa there’s always something fun and I
want you to know I was haiwa state was where Washington became maybe some of
you were there in the year 2000 where we did a show an audience program here on
campus was the first time we’d ever done anything like it and it was really kind
of exciting because that’s when I discovered David Broder was such a rock
star here everywhere he went people followed him around I think finally felt
like I had to go be the go-between but it it was great I’m glad to be here
mostly because I’m happy to be out of Washington got to get out of the bubble
everyone why every once in a while and it’s also good to come to Iowa in the
spring it’s slow coming but it beats January sorry thank you but I’ve been
discovering that it’s been getting harder and harder for me to get out of
Washington out of town out of my job to travel and talk to people especially on
college campuses like this because the news business as it is now configured
has become such a 24/7 proposition everywhere you look it seems there are
earthquakes and tsunamis and fires and war and uprising and then there are
elections which offer their own kind of chaos which I’ve come to appreciate and
like because not only do I get to indulge my junkie
like addictions to politics but I also get to take all ask all the questions
that I like of whom I like and to do it in a way that takes me and I hope you
beyond the soundbite on Washington week and the NewsHour we approach the news
with a fairly simple premise we assume that you it’s gonna this is gonna be
shock you it’s novel we decided that you can decide what you think if we just
give you the information to work with we are not to be confused with cable
television we hope you never know what we actually think or that we ever reach
any personal conclusions about anything at all you don’t really want to stand
behind me in line to vote it takes a long time but we believe that you are
hungry to know things that the rigors of daily life have not yet managed to
entirely obliterate the need for information that occurs beyond the end
of your nose beyond your neighborhoods beyond our borders
I covered my first presidential election in 1988 I have to tell you the story of
that is I was the lowest woman person on the totem pole at the Washington Post
and so therefore they would send me out to cover whoever was about to lose so I
would walk into a nice union hall here or somewhere in Iowa and there would be
Dick Gephardt or Bob Dole and they’d go oh no it’s the Angel of Death but never since then have I experienced
or did I expect to experience a presidential election like we all
experience and we that I covered last year in 2008 two years ago now I guess
where everything seemed to be at stake so much so much all at once
we covered the debates the first the breakthrough moments and through it all
the toughest thing I find is sorting through all the noise so that you don’t
lose sight of the history that’s being made on every given an any given day it
can be tempting far too tempting to be swallowed up in the rush of news and
blogging and commentary and tweeting about important issues and then lose
sight of the issues themselves issues like poverty and pain deficits bailouts
joblessness health care freedom and democracy all too often the slogans
dominate in the reality fades and we become consumed instead with debates of
a far more basic variety like was he wearing an American flag pin Plus thanks
to Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live it has become downright entertaining to
focus on the silliest aspects of what it takes to run for government and to
govern well we like that it takes a little depression off but still now it
should also be said I do love Jon Stewart and I watch him whenever I can
stay awake long enough but one of the things I like best about him is he knows
he does not do what I do frequently when I’m on campuses like this students tell
me I’m sorry but Jon Stewart’s the only news I watch even if it is fake news but
guess who he watches me just sayin so I have a few things to
share with you before I stop to take your question and which is by the way
the part I most look forward to because hopefully I get to pick your brains
learn from you and go tell the world but let me anticipate a few of your
questions first you’ll want to know if Washington is as screwed up as it looks
and the answer is nothing could be as screwed up as it looks more on that in a
moment you’ll want to know if journalism my
profession is hopelessly out of whack because what you see when you turn on
your television sets or fire up your computer the short answer is we’re not
quite as out of whack as it seems in fact we are a lot less screwed up than
things look more on that in a moment is way well you will want to know if Jim
Lehrer is as cool as he seems and the answer is he’s cooler than he seems and
funny and then you will want to know whether I liked it when Queen Latifah
played me on Saturday Night Live now I know you’re too shy to ask the question
but since rather than make wait for you to bring it up I just thought I’d just
tell you I liked it a lot and so would you
I was visiting another college not long ago when I just saw myself described on
their website as a noted Beltway journalist which is exactly the thing
I’ve been working for 25 years not to be called but I’ve gotten used to being
boiled down like that when I was writing my book the book Diane mentioned some
boiled me down to Obama booster just because they knew the book which at the
time was not yet written dealt with a topic of race that’s all it took to
become an obama booster that in his name is somewhere in the title in other
venues I am boiled down to other things some of it correct some of it incorrect
if you judge me simply by reading my bio you could be you could also brand me an
activist on behalf of immigrants because my parents were born in another country
and activists on behalf of free speech because I believe in the First Amendment
women’s rights because I’m a woman red lipstick because I wear red lipstick
some of that would be true and some of it would not
B there is one description however that I have recently come to embrace and that
is as a leader I got my undergraduate degree from Simmons as you heard Women’s
College and that experience taught me a lot about how to function in an
environment where the words woman and leader are not in conflict especially
it’s especially gratifying to be here during the tail end the very last day of
Women’s History Month at a place where Carrie Chapman Catt learned how to be
the first but not the last it’s a relief Ashley everywhere else I go it’s all
about firsts in my business we finally have women news anchors yay Katie and I
am yay but I keep an especially close eye on politics I’ve been counting it up
we now have six women governors four Republican to Democrat only one Jan
Brewer and Jan Brewer in Arizona was not a first there are 17 women in the Senate
76 in the House and even with the breakthrough of having had the first
woman Speaker of the House that’s not a lot still it is safe to say every one of
these women and every woman in this room has smashed a few glass ceilings in her
day one way or the other which is gratifying and it is historic and then
what I thought about this a lot when I wrote that book a couple of years ago it
was actually about breakthrough candidates I set out to write about
african-american breakthroughs but quickly noticed as I was compiling the
list of the people I wanted to profile that there weren’t that many women on
the list and I tried and tried and try to figure out why I thought to myself
doggone and I’m a woman I’m gonna get to the bottom of this but then I came
across a Brookings Institution study which surprised me described what they
said was an ambition gap ambition gap that keeps many women out of the mix one
woman politician said to me when I asked her about this it’s like the train left
and we weren’t on it I think we decided we didn’t even want to get a ticket and
that’s the difference the barriers to higher office for women are buried and
complicated but sometimes the simplest prepa sewed illustrate the problem my
favorite one is when senator carol moseley-braun ran for
president in 2004 she would frequently arrive on stage wearing her signature
tailored skirt suits and she would immediately walk onstage to discover
they had put high stools out there for all the candidates to sit on and she was
expected to climb onto them and perch there throughout with her knees clamped
awkwardly together while her male competitors kind of sprawled comfortably
I ran into Hillary Clinton at the State Department last week and she reminded me
that’s why she stuck to pants suits then there was the mayor of Atlanta Shirley
Franklin she worked in city government for three
mayors before she finally ran for mayor herself and that only happened because
she was recruited when I asked her why it took her so long she basically had
been running the office running the city by the time she became mayor she was in
her late 50s she told me I did not think that I was worthy to serve imagine that
other women told me they didn’t like raising money some felt a greater duty
to raise their children and many chose other paths to public service
particularly in the nonprofit sector I think about these options constrained as
they remain even now when I talk to young women twice I’ve had a chance to
return to my alma mater to deliver the commencement address and look right into
the eyes of these young women who were about to go out into the terrifying
world of job hunts with Amanda and I would have to look at them and tell them
they’d been lied to for four years they’ve been told they could have it all
not true you can imagine how well that went over I really ruined a graduation
day you might be able to have it all I told them but rarely all at the same
time often these women wait until the speech is over then to pull me aside and
ask how is it that I balance my work in my personal life and I tell them once
again another buzzkill it’s hard usually not what they want to hear but at least
we have choices now in that world of choices I’ve learned how to be a woman
and a leader and a role model and informed and I’ve learned that
when you add race to the mix that’s when it gets really complicated and my first
newspaper job it was actually an internship I worked at the Boston Herald
American which at the time in the mid 70s was a place full of I was at the
real throwback of a newspaper crusty old white guys with starched shirts and
cigars said let me rewrite I swear they said this and they had never seen an
educated black woman up close before they did not know what to make of me and
but you know we became friends we became buddies we hung out I did my job I was
perfectly Pleasant I did not put salt in their coffee it worked out fine
and then I arrived at work one day to find at my workspace a note waiting
right at my space that said nigger go home now my first reaction and this will
tell you a little bit about me and how I was raised was to look at this note and
say who is this for I was genuinely puzzled not for long but
long enough I took this to my bosses and their first reaction was that they were
not puzzled they knew exactly who was four they knew who had written it but
they didn’t want to fire who had written it so they offered me a job
and I of course said I will never go to work for these racists because I needed
a job a year later and I took the job now the secret was that may have been
not the the neatest way to get me in the door but once I got in the door I turned
it into the first stepping stone to my career didn’t spend a lot of time with
the chip on the shoulder worrying about why what drove this I knew that if they
took me seriously I could run with it I’m an optimist and I came by this
optimism kind of honestly my dad who was an ordained minister was what I call
would call an accidental feminist which is to say he wasn’t really that crazy
about women in the pulpit or anything like that he but he raised all of his
children to fight and he neglected to tell his daughters no and my mother is
the one who taught us to say yes but he taught us never he told he didn’t tell
us to say no and not taking no for an answer has come in handy throughout my
life in my career it came in handy when the mayor of Baltimore who I covered
when I covered City Hall in the mid 80s bristled and he would scold me when I
asked him tough questions once he said I acted like I was a school teacher or
something which I had puzzled me I didn’t know
what that was exactly supposed to mean but I think he meant it badly it came in
handy when a radio talk-show host trashed the entire Rutgers women’s
basketball team by dismissing them with a nasty racist and sexist slur and I was
able to defend them I was by that in a position to be able to defend them not
only in the op-ed pages of the New York Times but also on Meet the Press it came
in handy when the vice presidential candidates told me they were shocked
just shocked to learn that black women suffered at disproportionate
disproportionate and skyrocketing rates of HIV infection it came in handy when
Dick Cheney told me he couldn’t answer a question in 30 seconds and I said sorry
not that way but that’s the way it came across and it came in handy when critics
decided that because I was writing this book and because the book had Obama in
the title I was not fit to moderate a debate even though I’d moderated one for
years before without incident I just put my head down I did my job and the
critics faded away so when I talked to these young women I can still tell them
to reach for the stars for whatever they want and I could mean it I tell them
what I’ve learned along the way I tell them to be curious I tell them that
there are no dumb questions which is not strictly true but I tell them that
anyway I tell them to learn how to write I tell them to challenge authority
appropriately and I tell them to strive for the possibility it is the striving
that has fueled the ambitions of Harriet Tubman who saw the possibilities in
escaping slavery and Sojourner Truth saw the possibilities of what women could
add to the national conversation and of Carrie Chapman Catt who saw the
possibilities of how equal access in voting and simple justice could
transform a nation it’s because of these visionaries in the end that I became a
journalist that I get to believe that the search for the truth and the search
for justice are not incompatible and that they are in
fact essential I have a flat spot on the front of my head which you probably
can’t see I cover it up it’s from banging my head against walls
I’ve been doing it for years from my entire career forcing diversity
of thought and opinion onto the pages of the newspaper as I worked and onto the
air where I work and some weeks I am more successful than others but how
fortunate it is that I’m in a position to have the choice to fight and the
ability to set priorities we’re all trying to build our careers and live
honourable lives and work hard to give our children all the choices they
deserve but who wants to knock down walls and break through glass ceilings
only to find out that our sons and daughters don’t want to follow along
behind us that they don’t want to walk through the new doorways or get to that
next level we can’t let that happen by example or by exertion we have to reach
behind and drag them along it shouldn’t be hard for the women I know because we
all carry a hammer in one hand and hope in the other we’re trying to use the
hammer to build those stairs for some other woman’s children or your own for
it girls you mentor or for the perfect strangers you meet on the street we
don’t have any choice in this matter we have to live in a world of expectation
we should expect to be treated as equal citizens our children should not expect
to be inferior we should all expect that anything is achievable if not now soon I
got into journalism because I thought that on some level I guess I could
change the world but I could shed light in a few dark corners and break down a
couple barriers barriers are often still there the corners are often still dark
and I’ve discovered the world is often still resistant to change
but shining that light a light of justice and a light of understanding
into the world it can be tremendously satisfying at that point I’ll stop and I
would be happy to take your questions thank you now I wasn’t lying when I said that this
is my favorite part and I don’t know if there are microphones for people there’s
a plan yes before we get to our question and answer session we have a special
presentation by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority making the presentation our
sorority members Nicole Bardot loss loss kilo ski Bartolo ski and I even
practiced this before him and I II show white so he’s joined me ladies well good
evening ladies and gentlemen my name is Nicole Bardot Losey and I’m currently
the president of the Ames alumna chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Incorporated and this is my vice president Ayesha Ayesha white and we
just like to take a moment of your time to present one of our newest members
with a token of appreciation for those of you that may not know Delta Sigma
Theta is an organization of college-educated women committed to the
constructive development of its members and public service with a primary focus
on the black community so on behalf of the fight chapter and aims Lumbee
chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated we want to present saw
rifle with this small token of appreciation for letting your voice be
heard and extending your knowledge on politics and release and race relations
your acceptance as an honorary member in our sorority is a testament to your
contributions to our mission and we give you this with thanks and sincere
congratulations I just had to explain I less than a
month ago I Soledad O’Brien and I were both inducted as honorary members into
Delta Sigma Theta my sister has been a member of the sorority since she was
undergraduate in college and has been after me for years to be able as well
and every city I go to the deltas come out man and they bring me stuff so thank
you now for the plan for the qat you should see a mic in the center aisle
back there in between the two spots here if you it’s time for questions and like
Gwen said she really wants to I already have someone standing at the mic I can
see please come to the center mic and please keep your questions as brief as
possible so that we can take as many questions as possible you’re also going
to have time to meet with Gwen and talk to her after this event tonight as
there’s a reception and a book signing you can also purchase copies of her book
so at this point in time we’ll take questions from the audience
and take it from there so thank you purchased copies of the book I just
thought I’d you know and go ahead I’m sorry even England thanks for being here
my question is this you’d mentioned that when we knock down doors open doors or
break through glass ceilings we should drag our youth behind us that seems
really difficult to do it seems like so many young people are really complacent
how do you recommend we do that it’s a hard question because I was just talking
to one of this students at dinner who said you know no one’s paying attention
really anymore and I find that you know I find that to be wildly different from
calm from campus to campus but I also realize I I draw a self-selected crowd
of young people who are more likely to be interested um I don’t know I think
it’s by example I really don’t think we can get up on a pulpit and say you’ve
got to pay attention in my house we were confident connection was
constantly made to what decisions were happening the world and what effect that
had on our lives I never doubted for a moment that if someone sounded Fair
Housing Act that it might affect my life partly
because we’re living in public housing at the time so I saw the point but also
it doesn’t have to affect you I find that young people are incredibly
optimistic they just don’t necessarily know what the connection politics has to
their lives and so if you if you appeal to their sense of optimism into a sense
of doing good there’s a reason why Teach for America and other public service
projects are over subscribed year after year after year and it’s because there
is a wellspring of optimism and Public Service instinct among young people and
we just have to give we have a responsibility to give them an outlet
you know in Iowa it seems to me that there is there are more opportunities
than not to show the connection between what happens in politics and what
happens in our lives and I think that every chance you have a chance not to be
cynical about it and to tell them that that’s part of the responsibility of
adults hi I don’t seem to be getting any sound but I can repeat the question
until we get it right go ahead I can hear you just talk loud I’ll repeat it for now
don’t fix it we’re not now it comes back you see the
mic is working thanks Ali Gwen I just really appreciate the words
that you had to say I’m actually involved in political office because
they do feel downtrodden by convoluted uh I vote for you just cuz you handle
that mic so well it I don’t know that I have advice I’m
not very good at giving advice on things I don’t that I myself don’t have the
courage to do because I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage no matter
what your gender to think to get into elective politics and and that’s why I
think a lot of people women are drawn to nonprofit sector they won their if
you’re getting it into a make an impact sometimes you just so I’m gonna deal
with a lot of the crap you just want to get to the point and that’s if you got a
deal you got to be prepared to deal with stuff in order to be an elected official
which is why so many people you respect get in it and then get out so many
people you don’t respect get in this day but but I would tell you that I I
actually like politicians because the vast majority of politicians I met my
career are honorable people who got into it for the right reasons and stay for
the right reasons we pay attention of course to the rogue’s because that’s you
know if a chicken flies my chicken fly theory of journalism if a chicken walks
across the street nobody notices because chickens are supposed to walk or hop but
if your chicken flies everyone will stop and take note of that because that’s
different it’s unexpected it’s it’s new and that’s what we pay attention to the
roads and the people who don’t do it as it’s as expected so mcdeere are many
levels of which you can give back and I don’t think politics is the only one
elected politics getting up every day and still having a
job in journalism is one of them you think I do think I kid
no actually I am I am actually kind of proud that I know I knew I want to do
this since I was a single digit girl I always wanted to be a journalist want to
be a newspaper journalist television was an accident but I want to do this and
that I still get to do it when so many people I know in this business don’t is
huge I don’t really boil it down to
individual things I do because I think at the body of work is what’s important
the fact that I get up every day and try to create an environment where civility
exists where questions are thoughtful where answers are not truncated and
where in the end at the end of the week on Washington week or the end of the day
in the NewsHour you come away knowing a little something more than you knew
before and that to me is a triumph every single day I come home every night
knowing more than I knew the day before and I may forget it by the next day but
I knew it that night and that to me is far more gratifying than almost any
other career or profession I could think of so it’s not the specific well I
really nailed that interview tonight kind of moments it’s the the cumulative
effect of having being satisfied that you’ve added something to the debate
instead of detracted from it hi Gwen you said earlier that you were an activist
for the First Amendment and I’m just curious about your ideas over the
recently Supreme Court case over the protesting of military funerals hmm I
what actually I said is people would assume I was an activist for the that I
was an activist because I’m a journalist but I am NOT an activist for anything
however I do think the first man it’s a fine thing mostly because it allows me
to do my job but okay here’s what happened for those
of you who won’t fall every little blip out of the Supreme Court there remember
that the group from Kansas Westboro Baptist Church that shows up in pickets
at military funerals and they do it for obscure
reasons that have to do with their objection to homosexuality I say twisted
because at most of the time they’re picketing the funerals of people have
nothing to do with the issue which which they’re picketing but that they were
challenged and they went to went to the Supreme Court and Supreme Court upheld
their right to do this this was a free speech test this is the real test of our
democracy when we look at something that we consider ourselves to be abhorrent
and yet the Constitution upholds it that’s when a democracy gets complicated
that’s when we have to be held to what we say our beliefs are and if our
beliefs are that you get to speak then you get to speak and that’s what the
Supreme Court said and that is the true test of our citizenship hi just drove in
from Wisconsin to visit to visit our son and we’re pleasantly surprised to find
you you’re speaking tonight so and you were surprised to find Wisconsin still
standing I just wanted to get an idea from you about the reaction to the
political activities taking place in Wisconsin right now those of you aren’t
familiar maybe you are you just heard the laughter I think they are okay all
right then I don’t need to repeat anything give us an idea of what what
what what’s reaction in Washington well the latest I heard today is that the
court ruled that they cannot enforce this law that they passed I believe
that’s correct but you know that’ll be challenged again you know the
interesting thing in Washington is we look at things when we do take our noses
out of our navels we look at what’s happening in states around the country
and we try to detect whether there is something we should be paying attention
to and in the case of what’s gonna transmit a national story so you look at
Wisconsin a look at Ohio and you look at Indiana where the Democratic legislature
just went back came back from Illinois and you begin to think there is
something happening what and what seems to be happening is not just that it
folks are angry not just that a new bunch of Republican governors have come
in and have decided to roll back Union benefits it’s that there is some sort of
there’s activism which is alive and on a state level and on the local
level which is worth paying attention to it’s play is playing out in dramatic
fashion in Madison and in Indianapolis and in Columbus but it’s also playing on
different ways in states like New Jersey in California where they have had to
make some really tough budget choices about how to balance budgets which it
turns out states actually have to do they don’t run deficits like the federal
government and the choices that have to be made and how they are communicated is
going to be an interesting test case we’re all going to look back on this
year and use it as a way of I think if politicians are smart looking at the way
as how to do this right how to do this wrong and what price you pay when the
voters are actually paying attention it should be said that one-third of the
people who voted for Governor Scott Walker were union members so they maybe
weren’t paying attention hi will you tell us what you think about
the Juan Williams MPR ordeal probably not I will say this National Public Radio
it’s me don’t call that anymore NPR is an amazing resource that does work like
no other news organization when we’re sitting here in Washington and around
the country debating whether one commentator should been fired for an
intemperate thing that he said you can debate whether he’s fired right whether
he was fired wrong whether he said was offensive or not but the fact is I turn
on the radio in the morning and in the afternoon and I listen to all things
considered and I listen to Morning Edition I hear reporters under fire in
Tahrir Square I hear reporters reporting from ivory
coast where no one is I hate reporters who are telling me stories I’m not
hearing anywhere else and in ways am i hearing and they’re underpaid and
they’re lying on their stomachs in some sort of war zone saying Juan Williams
said what doesn’t matter they’re doing their jobs and so what I find the most
frustrating about this whole episode is that is that NPR has been insufficiently
defended for the kind of work they do and it’s not and I of course and loved
the news programming but there’s there are so many of things they do that don’t
exist anywhere else and this truth it also doesn’t get told about this whole
debate about public broadcasting funding it’s a what degree to which any of it is
really going to is really coming out of your pockets it’s not that much money
it’s low-hanging fruit but in addition to that we also have the real to me the
real threat which is that small stations in states and cities and counties that
are covering the Statehouse that are covering local government in places
where nobody else is doing it where commercial broadcasters have pulled out
will go dark they relied much more heavily on that federal subsidy than
anybody who does the work I do in Washington and national NPR or at PBS so
we have to consider very carefully the costs of what we do when we turn what I
think is honorable work into a political football I’m anxious to read your book for the
light that it sheds on race in the you know recent elections but my question
has to do with gender and I understand there’s some studies out now looking at
how women were portrayed in the 2008 election and and even Katie Couric said
that the media got it wrong and maybe didn’t treat the women candidates and in
the same way as men can you comment on on where we’ve come with gender and how
the media deals with gender well we don’t deal with that any better than we
deal with a lot of things the truth is there is a lot of knee-jerk reaction and
old-fashioned notions about what women’s place is supposed to be and most of it
is in code words by the way most most of it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with I
mean one of Geraldine Ferraro’s enduring frustrations is that she felt that even
though she broke through in a dramatic way when she was the first woman as
vice-presidential nominee that 24 it was 24 years later before we had Sarah Palin
as a vice-presidential nominee and in that period of time there always seemed
to be a pretty low ceiling for women candidates so yeah it’s true now the one
thing I guess I I went back and forth on throughout the campaign is the degree to
which some of the questions that directed at women candidates wouldn’t
have been directed to anybody who was a new thing Katie Couric you mentioned did
a tremendous interview with Sarah Palin who I think would tell you was I would
tell you that interview was unfair and sexist where I thought it was
enlightening so it’s all where you’re sitting often I think often you know you
have to expect that people are going to look at you through the veil of what
their experiences and you have to decide whether you’re going to account for that
or not I don’t know many women out there who in office or running for office
you’re standing around saying but they treated me bad they’re just figuring out
how to work through it around it or over it this is not changing overnight hi he
has kind of an extension of the question on NPR in in in view of the changes in
technology and the influence of big money could you comment what you see the
future of journalism in democracy where’s the big money I’d like to have
some of that Fox News well I guess I’m out of luck you know I by the way I don’t I don’t
think it’s fair to say Fox News has a big money and therefore I mean I don’t
think they have bigger money than NBC and GE I mean I don’t know you may not
agree what what comes out of it but I don’t think it’s money that’s driving
that this ideology perhaps in some cases you know I I think that our the bigger
threat to the work I do is is how we choose to get our information
I talked to maybe Amanda at dinner who said she gets all her news on the web
which is actually great it doesn’t mean that she’s not looking at mainstream
sources she probably is it doesn’t mean she’s looking at news aggregators we
just send her to lots of different places she probably is so am i but when
I was in college and Amanda’s time age I was maybe if I was looking at reading a
newspaper a week and maybe if I was lucky watching a newscast a week now
that makes her a lot more informed now than I was even though I want to be a
journalist which tells you something I’m not sure what that you’ll come back to
your senses as you get older probably but the difference in there’s a
challenge for all of us out here is that there are so many other ways to get your
information that they’re never going to come back to watching the news at six
o’clock at night like people in this room might because frankly that’s just
not the way anybody’s socialized anymore so we have to go to where the viewers
are instead of expecting that they’re magically going to come back to where we
are which means we have to find ways to get our iPad apps ready and our iPhone
apps ready and find places to go and meet you and bring you the information
to me what we have is a much greater array of choices to get your information
that we ever had which is really good the only caveat to that is that by
choosing where we get our information sometimes we
jumped into a silo and we never get out and we only hear from people and from
places that we want to hear people who already agree with us people who confirm
aren’t probably ill-thought-out notions often what I would like to know is that
we would scatter around and find out what other people think and maybe engage
in a discussion in a debate you know when I wrote this book about race it was
so interesting to me because when I traveled around the country to talk
about it I discovered my audiences were one-third one-third one-third one-third
were African American readers who were so happy someone was writing them a book
about a non-fiction book about that didn’t tell them what they ought to do
to be better one-third were PBS viewers reasonably middle class or well-heeled
who felt pretty pretty comfortable in the sense that they are right thinkers
but you know deep thinkers and one-third young people who never see me on
television but maybe saw me on Saturday Night Live Jon Stewart but what was
interesting to me was none of these three groups ever talk to each other
they never interact across social lines and certainly the kids don’t listen to
the parents and the parents think they have black friends but they don’t and
when you get them all together they started asking questions and trading
misconceptions and it was enlightening for everybody in the room because they
were in a safe place where they could actually share these things and not get
yelled at not getting it out of the room and maybe get schooled a little bit so I
always found it fascinating because watching the way people will interact
given the opportunity to do that is very heartening for me and I think that’s
going to be our salvation in the end I hope thank you very much for coming this
evening to Iowa State and Ames Iowa thank you my concern is Libya and I
wonder what you see as far as the involvement of the American government
in the American military in Libya in the next few weeks and months you know I I
think if I knew that they would hire me and give me a big job in the
administration because I don’t think they know I think this is a point
where they are trying to figure out when I
listen the person I one of the people I listen most closely to in this is
secretary gates because secretary gates has a history with set up with that
Saddam hmm with Gaddafi and he and he knows kind of what he can be like and he
was also as you remember quite the foot director on the idea that we should
intervene in any or even as far as in the fly zone he clearly is on board
because he’s a you know it’s a team guy now but to listen to him talk about it
he’s been very it seems to be very honest as far as I know in saying this
is not an easy thing we don’t know what the outcome is I know you would like an
exit strategy senator but I can’t give you one right now and I think that one
of the reasons that it can’t give them one is because there are lots of
pressures among the pressures this was it what are our allies I mean France and
Britain wanted to do this more than the US did and and so the u.s. is now trying
to create a situation in which they do it for a while and then step back but
it’s not clear they can do that within the last 24 hours we heard news that we
actually have CIA people CIA agents or whatever they are facilitators on the
ground working with the rebels and the first reaction was oh no we have people
on the ground and as someone said to me today haven’t we had people on the
ground for 40 years in Libya I mean don’t we have CIA agents everywhere I
would be a little nervous if we didn’t have somebody somewhere talking to the
rebels but it turns out maybe we do now the question then becomes arming the
rebels do we we see these pictures of the rebels with their little shoulder
mounted guns fighting back against armored tanks and you think to yourself
this can’t end well so do what what to what degree do the Allies and this
coalition have to make sure it ends well I think that those are all complicated
questions that if they have the answers to right now they’re keeping them to
themselves hi all right my question is in regards
to something that we learned in one of our seminar series I’m taking a seminar
class a student yeah in in Facing History and ourselves and
one of the discussions that was brought up today and our professor graciously
let us out early so we could come in here you speak tonight was on journalism
and reporting and how do we get our community or our nation for that matter
to be more of a caring nation we spoke about something called psychic numbing
and I’m not a journalist student so that’s why I never heard that term
either and I don’t know I can’t remember she was a journalist or connell
columnist Chris Christophe and his Nicholas Kristof yes and I just wanted
to know what you thought of his style and yeah whether we got into discussion
of was that really reporting and journalism or was it more manipulation
and whether or not there was good and bad good and bad manipulation in the
sense of trying to get its crazy shoes across to our whole nation no it’s it’s
a great question and it gives me a chance to make the distinction what Nick
Kristof does is undoubtedly journalism there’s no question about it however he
is an advocacy journalist and there is nothing wrong but we have to understand
the distinction I don’t do it Nick Kristof does I’m you’re straight down
the middle this is what happened today this is what it means maybe I’ll give
you a long analysis if is if you really lean on me but that’s it Nick will say
I’m on the ground here in Sudan and people are starving doggone it what are
you gonna do about it he that’s his role he’s supposed to be
an opinion journalist the people who write on the op-ed page are supposed to
have a point of view based if they want to campaign that’s fine that’s what they
do but it’s it’s reported opinion which is the kind I value where they’re
actually talking to people and finding out on the ground Nick Kristof has spent
more of the last three months on the ground in Libya and Cairo that he has
I’m sure at home in New York because he’s going out there and he’s on the
ground and he’s actually finding out he’s spent more time reporting on Sudan
than probably any other single columnist so he
has passions that he’s using his column to inform people and that’s completely
honorable journalism and there’s a great tradition of it
there is also journalism which is just telling you the facts ma’am
which is what I believe I do which I think you have to understand the
distinction some people expect me to say you know to become an advocate it’s just
not going to happen it’s not what I was built for but I think it’s great that
some people are and I think you will find advocates of every political stripe
and when you look at the way that if you read an opinion page in a newspaper
you’ll discover that they take pains in most days of the week to try to balance
different points of view but they are still points of view so thanks I still
know what psychic numbing is though I’m gonna find out hi hi I’m an
undergraduate student here and I had a question about your career you said at
one point you were the angel of death I was wondering what was really the
transition to where you are now that’s a good question you start out at the
bottom in whatever you do you just do and you’ve got to be willing to do all
the the crunchy stuff you’ve got to be willing to do that it’s I have had
students squawk up to me and say I want to do what you do and I go what do you
think that is exactly because I didn’t do what I did when I was your age so
what do you mean what I wanted what I always wanted to do was be in a position
to ask better questions of exceedingly more influential people in places and
and I did that slowly I mean my first job really out of college after I almost
didn’t get hired was my first writing job was being a food writer I did not
know how to cook I did not know what to do with a box of macaroni and cheese
well maybe the box of macaroni and cheese but it was a chance to write so I
took a job working working on food and answering the phones and people would
call in and say how long do you cook a turkey for and I’d say
and I’d make it up I had good instincts because if they didn’t call me back I
figured they were dead or it worked I don’t make it up anymore by the way I’m
a very good cook but I went from there to working covering school committee to
working covering City Hall in Baltimore to covering the Statehouse to covering
Congress to covering a presidential campaign to covering the White House and
only then did I then go to television where I covered Congress in the nuts of
more political campaigns and only then did I get my own show so that was a
career arc of 20 or 30 years and so how did I get from being the angel of death
where they never let me in the room because it was gonna kill a candidacy to
being at a point where they kind of don’t mind me when I show up which
actually isn’t that long a distance is is hard work over a long period of time
any more questions really I’m so hurt well can I ask a
question oh there’s someone well then you make your way to the mic let me ask
a question Washington week how does it get started I mean I can tell you it’s a
42 year old program which has been er it’s the was the longest program of this
type which is say a public affairs Roundtable ever I mean it’s long been on
the air longer than any other and it started just basically for old white
guys sitting in the dark students saying well the president told me today for a
long time this was this was the program and and and I got in the program for the
first time as a panelist 1991 when I was working for the New York Times and
covering Bill Clinton and I even then was one of a few women on the program
but I was not the first there were several others and they would they would
be nice it was one panelist would look at me when I said something in would
wink as if to say nice thing little girl you
know but methank that in the I’ve been there now 11 years and the time I’ve
been there I’ve strived to make it more of the moment more capturing the news of
the day with a wider variety and diversity of panelists and but still to
maintain its core which is as a place to go at the end of the week where you can
kick back and find out what things mean I want to ask you guys a question now
that I had the chance show of hands how many of you are really
excited about 2012 wow that’s not a lot of hands why not – okay well but you
know you’ve got people coming already I mean Donald Trump might come so should I
not come back thank you all so much again I am trying to get Gwen to come
back I told her today that she has to come back to Iowa State the August 11th
to August 13th when we have the Republican presidential candidate debate
in Stephens auditorium and our Iowa straw poll which I described as a County
Fair with candidates anyway we’re having a book signing now Pat Miller where is
that located back back in the back by Asha over there Arthur has a locator
thank you book signing we also have some treats a
few treats in the back so please stay again I want to thank you first of all
so much for coming out tonight you’ve been a great audience
Gwen’s third time’s a charm this is the third time we’ve asked her to come and
it worked out I’m really happy that she could be here with us tonight and so again thank you and thank you to
our co-sponsors and especially we’re happy to end Women’s History Month and
decel right Martin Luther King jr. celebration holiday celebration with
this great event so thank you again




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