Fri. Jan 28th, 2022

On Nov. 1, West Chester University hosted guest speaker Bob Woodward in the Philips Memorial Building’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall. Woodward has been a renowned American investigative journalist for the Washington Post since 1971, who has reported on such notable issues as the Watergate Scandal and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
He is also a non-fiction author and has contributed to many works that have won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. He has either authored or coauthored 17 different books, the most recent of which examines President Obama and Congressional leaders in their attempts at restoring the United States economy. He considers himself an “old” reporter, but one who tries to uncover truth and really digest facts before offering mere biased sound bites of half-truthful stories, a critique he offered on many modern forms of media.
The event began at 8 p.m., the first hour devoted to a lecture, and the last half hour devoted to a question and answer segment. The crowd was filled with community members, students, and faculty, all of which anxiously awaited the beginning of Woodward’s lecture. Throughout the presentation, the audience remained engaged and attentive, hanging on to every word with eager delight.
His lecture, entitled “Presidential Leadership and the Price of Politics,” covered a multitude of topics related to the modern presidential role, and the reasoning behind recurring issues with the political system as it pertains to getting information to the public. He talked about his experience as a reporter and the necessary tactful skill of negotiation in reporting on political issues. He discussed the presidential role and the stresses and pressures he faces regarding political changes. Woodward tries to get the “real” story; he wants to understand what is really going on in the government.
Woodward is an experienced reporter and from this experience, he has inevitably started noticing trends and patterns in the news. He explains that you can never get inside someone’s head – you never know if someone is “playing” you. Impatience and speed in media today cause reporters to misconstrue information and sway their audiences in a desirable direction. “In that kind of rushed environment, you’re not getting to the bottom of much,” because media can easily take things and change them. Woodward discussed Obama’s health care plan and noted why it has been largely unsuccessful, blaming, in large part, media’s failure at accurately explaining the plan to the public. Woodward explains: “the truth wasn’t told,” about Obama’s health care plans. Now the real question is: “How can we redress it? [How can we] rescore” something that happened four years ago? It is a seemingly impossible task, and only one example of the difficulty in correcting media’s bias in reporting.
After his lecture at the podium, Woodward moved to the opposite side of the stage where two chairs and microphones were set up for a question and answer segment. The questions were submitted by West Chester students and faculty ahead of time and the segment was conducted by the university’s President Weisenstein.
Such questions were asked as: “How would you describe today’s political environment, and how does it compare to previous political environments that you’ve reported on.” As well as: “Which country, in your opinion, has the most rigorous and trustworthy reporters?” And, “What will it take to eradicate the endless deadlock in Washington and make the government function more efficiently.” To this last question, Woodward responded: “anybody who’s in office, would have to be expelled.” The audience interjected his next words with uproarious applause and laughter.
Throughout the question and answer segment, Woodward talked about the 2016 election and Hilary Clinton’s likelihood in running for office. He explained how the roll of the presidency has inevitably changed since the time of the Constitution due in large part to the country’s changing needs, but also through the changing role of media in making the president more accessible to the public. Obama is a TV president, something former presidents like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, never had to worry about. Modern presidents are the face of the country, and every movement can be documented, watched, and analyzed. Every word is recorded, replayed, and perhaps even reworded. His lecture was funny, engaging, and extremely insightful in helping the audience truly understand for themselves, Presidential Leadership and the Price of Politics.
Woodward closed with a story about a question he asked when interviewing President George W. Bush: “How do you think history will judge you for the Iraq war?” Bush responded with the answer: “History, we don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” The audience laughed at Bush’s dismissive response, but
Woodward used his response to comment on the importance of the accuracy of news today. Woodward has devoted his life to uncovering the truth about our government, and getting to that truth is impossibly hard. It is impossible to know for sure how future societies will judge our modern political system, and the Presidential Leadership of our modern presidents; but perhaps that is the Price of Politics.
Laura Wayne is a fourth-year student majoring in English literature with minors in international business annd technical writing. She can be reached at LW738484@wcupa.edu. 

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