David Gergen, political commentator, author and adviser to four U.S. presidents from both parties, will speak in Macky Auditorium on Monday, Oct. 2, at 7:30 p.m. Ahead of the talk, he shares his thoughts on making changes in today’s political climate, dealing with the current threats to American democracy and more.
Threats to American democracy
We are at a dangerous moment in our democracy, gravely threatening our future. I believe the folks who got us into this political mess are not the right ones to get us out. That’s why we need to pass the torch to younger generations. But we also need to prepare them better for their future.
That’s why I have become a champion of national service, encouraging every graduate of K-12 to give a year back to our country. That is one of the most important ways we are going to protect our democracy.
Narrowing the current political divide
Major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal continue to be defenders of democracy, as do some cable outfits—I am biased toward CNN because I have worked part time for them for over 20 years.
But too many of our local newspapers are broke and shutting down. We need to restore their vitality, because big decisions are being made at the local and state level. Clearly, we also need to clean up social media—it is carrying too much sewage.
How students can affect change in today’s political climate
Find ways to get in the public arena when you are still young. As Martin Luther King Jr. argued, you don’t need to be a graduate of a university or a person of wealth. Everyone can serve somewhere and help us rediscover our values as a nation.
Value of learning leadership skills
Because, if we play this right, you will soon have the keys to the kingdom. You need to prepare yourself for that role, studying history and philosophy along with science, technology and business management. Don’t shoot too low—shoot for the stars.
High schooler by day, journalist by night
When I was entering high school, I thought I might be a professional baseball pitcher. But I sprouted up 6 inches in less than a year, so when I tried out for my high school team, I had completely lost control of my pitching and sadly gave up an athletic future.
So, I decided on the next best thing—covering athletic games for my local city papers. It was great fun writing about college teams and working with journalists in their 20s. Sports coverage soon led to local news coverage. By 16, I was writing obituaries for the news pages, and by 17, I was going to school by day and working full time on news stories in afternoons and evenings.
I have many fine memories from those first days in the public arena. I was especially grateful to the many older journalists who were mentors and then friends.