What in the world is so funny? Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Joel Pett talks politics at Whitman

Eric Nickeson-Mendheim

Credit: Gold
Credit: Gold
Cartoonist Joel Pett knows his job is unconventional.

“Once a day I have to figure out something I’m angry about, and then I make fun of it,” said the Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist.

Pett spoke on campus Tuesday as an O’Donnell visiting professor. His lecture, “What in the world is so funny?” took on global issues from a more humorous standpoint.

“Joel Pett brings a creative approach,” said Associate Professor of Politics Shampa Biswas. “He’s a cartoonist, and he comes at these issues from a creative perspective.   His contributions are quite different from those of other speakers we bring to campus and I think he’s generated   a lot of of interest from different groups at the college.”

Students who attended the lecture were impressed by Pett.

“I liked that he was so blatant about the issues,” said sophomore Khoa Nguyen. “He didn’t overanalyze the problems and he wasn’t moralizing. He was realistic about things and that was really refreshing.”

In his lecture, Pett emphasized the importance of taking an a role to make a difference. He also stressed the importance of population control and the role of government.

“I really appreciated that he didn’t care what people thought about him,” said sophomore Katie Lei. “He does that cartoon to make a point, but doesn’t want to preach to the choir. It wasn’t politically correct and I liked that.”

The lecture was presented alongside Pett’s political cartoons, which featured everything from caricatures of presidents to pieces on torture at Guantanamo Bay and child labor in China.

“He covers a range of issues in the news,” said Biswas. “I think political cartoonists usually do a good job of stirring people up and making them think critically about things otherwise taken for granted. I want people to walk away from his presentations with the same passion for global affairs that he has for his work. I want students to think about global issues and about how cartooning can help portray them.”

“I definitely felt that he didn’t try to overanalyze the problems,” said Nguyen. “He just wanted to let us see them for what they were.”

The lecture was funded by the the Global Studies Steering Committee in conjunction with the program of O’Donnell Visiting Educators. The O’Donnel lectures were created to bring practitioners with international experience. The lectures’ purpose is to enlighten students about international affairs through a medium other than the typical news or online blog sources. Joel Pett seemed an ideal candidate.

“The point of these lectures is to bring practitioners, not academics, on global affairs,” said Biswas.

In the future, the O’Donnell lectures will involve an even wider variety of speakers, including a merchant marine officer, a lawyer dealing with energy issues and a former world bank economist.

“It’s going to be the whole spectrum.” said Biswas.