Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Helen Thomas speaks out against Bush Administration

by Jamie Soukup

Helen Thomas’ favorite question is, “Why?”

Asking this question has led to her become a symbol of earnest and investigative journalism, a pioneer for women in the field and one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America, according to the World Almanac.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, students, faculty, staff and others gathered at Cordiner Hall to hear Thomas speak about her experiences. The event was sponsored by ASWC Public Speakers and The Hosokawa Endowment.

Thomas, born in 1920, began her journalistic career as a copy girl for the Washington Daily News. At 23, she joined the United Press International (UPI), reporting on women’s topics for radio broadcasting and later covering federal agencies. In 1960, she began her long-standing coverage of American presidents.

Thomas has covered every president since John F. Kennedy. Having recently left her position as the UPI’s White House Correspondent, which she had held for 57 years, she now writes a column for Hearst Newspapers. Thomas was also served as the first female officer of the National Press Club and the first female president and member of the White House Correspondents Association.

Fifty-seven years in the business is a long time, but Thomas still has no shortage of strong opinions.

She proved this when she began her speech, saying, “We’re in the fourth year of the devastating war in Iraq, which we never should have started and should have pulled the troops out yesterday.”

Thomas devoted a significant portion of her speech to what she considers the illegal war in Iraq and the incompetence of the Bush administration, saying that President Bush is “determined to continue on his misguided course.”

The war is not the only area where the U.S. needs drastic improvement, according to Thomas. She lamented over the great number of Americans living below the poverty line and without health care, as well as the necessity of politicians having to “hustle” for campaign funds “We have lost our halo in the world as a beacon light of freedom,” Thomas said.

She also pointed a harsh finger to her fellow journalists. “Our one weapon in journalism is asking questions … but people are afraid to be considered unpatriotic and un-American.” Later she added, “I really believe that the press has let the country down. Our news should not be reduced to a sound bite.”

Thomas recapped all the Presidents that she had covered, describing key points and personalities of each. “No President has ever liked the press, dating back to George Washington,” she said. “I wasn’t covering him, although some people might think so.”

Thomas spoke about her career and achievements with a level of pride. When asked, “What was a question have you asked a president that you regretted, and why?” she responded, “No. The only questions I regret are the ones I didn’t get to ask,” she explained.

And despite the bleak state of America that Thomas described, she has hope for the future. “I believe that out in the audience we have the leaders of tomorrow. This country can only operate on the truth. Our generation has dropped the ball, but we’ve started a whole new century, and it’s yours: yours to lead, yours to make better.”

The general consensus among students attending the lecture was favorable. More than one student described it to be the best lecture he/she had ever attended.

“I liked it, but it was different than I expected it to be,” said senior Laura Worley. “I expected it to be more about her life as a journalist, but I was impressed with what she had to say about current affairs and what is going on in the world.”

Sophomore Leor Maizel held a different opinion. “I thought [the lecture] was pointless, to be honest. She said some things I agreed with, but not things I had to be told; it was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know.'” He added, however, “Seeing her was very important because she’s a very historically important woman, but I wish she would have said something more.”

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