Gergen appeared live at the School of Communications in more ways
than one during the first two weeks of Winter Term.
presidential adviser, well-known political analyst, author and newsman
was on campus for the third time in recent years after being appointed
to be the first Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow at Elon University.
The public events conducted during his stay included three major
lectures, Jan. 6, 12 and 14. All were riviting and inspirational.
But the busy Gergen reached out to Elon students in a much more
personal way in dozens of smaller, unbilled encounters spread throughout
Elon's academic divisions. He also conducted national television
interviews carried by satellite uplinks from McEwen's Studio A.
base of operations was the School of Communications, Gergen was
often seen in the hallways of McEwen and in its main office. He
was a guest speaker in Dr. David Copeland's Globalization, Culture
and Media class, Dr. Brooke Barnett's Media Law & Ethics class
and Dr. Brad Hamms' Fellows section of Elon's Media Writing class,
where his visit was sponsored by SPJ and Pendulum students.
his meeting with SPJ, Pendulum and Fellows students, Gergen spoke
about media professionals' responsibilities. "There are two
or three ways communicators effect the quality of our a democracy,"
he said. "First, is how they report the news. Does it give
people a true picture of what's going on? How they report it has
a huge effect on what we know, what we believe. How well you keep
us enlightened is fundamental to democracy. We hold institutions
and officials accountable through the press.
thing you (communicators) do is entertain. You set the tone for
the culture. It can be partisan, bitter, empty or violent or it
can be strong, ennobling and provocative. People in communications
shape our culture. Will it be a culture that lifts or a culture
you give meaning to what's happening. Should we be grateful for
what is unfolding in the world or should we be angry? You determine
how people might think."
communicators have the opportunity to do a lot of public good. He
said a key lapse in the way the media serves democracy today is
its navel-gazing. "The big problem in American news right now
is it only tells us the news from an American perspective,"
he explained. "We only constitute about 5 percent of the world's
population, and our journalism is not doing enough to tell us about
the other 95 percent."
trust the media
He expanded on this point in Copeland's Globalization class, where
he said, "We need to know much more about each other than we
do, and the media is not set up to do that well. And one of the
reasons they aren't is because Americans won't watch it or read
it. They won't buy it. Get out in the world and travel and look
for yourself. Don't trust the media to give you all the information
you need about what's going on in the world ...
of other nations need to know more about us than we need to know
about them because we are so powerful. The universal language is
increasingly English ... The influence of American culture has become
universal - all of that brings a distorted picture of America to
the world. For a lot of the world, what's going on in America is
eventually going to come to them, and it frightens many of them.
They are far more conservative... We're finding out that some people
hate us or resent us. Globalization is seen as an increase in trade
in which the U.S. is getting rich and altering their societies.
They see it as Americanization. They love us and hate us for it.
They like the jeans, the music, but they feel they're losing their
independence and identity."
in Studio A
in demand on cable television news-talk programs, Gergen found himself
giving satellite-uplink interviews from the Elon campus Jan. 12
for CNBC and CNN shows. Both interviews originated in TV Studio
A in the McEwen Communications building.
to work fast to fit the interviews in: At 6:15 p.m. Monday the 12th,
he taped an interview with Brian Williams' CNBC show which aired
a bit later in the evening. CNBC sent a microwave truck from Charlotte
to send the satellite signal. At 7 p.m. he delivered the second
of his three public lectures on leadership. He was a guest of honor
at a dinner that followed. At 10 p.m., Gergen appeared live on CNN's
"Newsnight with Aaron Brown." A CNN live truck from Richmond,
Va., handled the technical aspects of the live feed.
In each interview,
Elon was mentioned, and Linda Lashendock, coordinator of television
services and a veteran of CNN herself, reported that both network
crews were impressed with Elon's facilities. "They each said our
new set and the capabilities of our studio made their jobs easier,"
leader talks about leadership
focused the first of his three public lectures on the inner qualities
of a great leader. He said these are amibition, the capacity to
learn and grow, and character.
his second lecture on what he termed "the outer journey,"
what leaders need to do in their relationships with others. He identified
the three qualities leaders must cultivate on their outer journey
as emotional intelligence, a record of accomplishment and service
to others. "It's important to spend time when you're young
paying your dues," Gergen said. "Learn how to follow,
then you can lead."
He added that
finding a mentor and assuming posts where there is responsibility
for leading others are also crucial to building leadership skills.
"There's always someone older who is willing to extend a helping
hand if you ask in the right way," he said. Gergen said leaders
must develop a moral compass, "something to guide you through
the difficult questions you will face. The moral compass will help
you deal with adversity, because adversity will come your way. It
will serve you so well when you get lost, and you will get lost
and you will make mistakes, because we all do."
In his final
Winter Term lecture, Gergen said assuming a leadership position
invites personal struggle. "If you wish to pursue a life of leadership,
you won't be walking on rose petals," he said. "As they say in politics,
leadership is a contact sport."
now brings with it a great deal of personal accountability to the
American public through the press. Gergen said said our democracy
requires a vigilant press corps to serve as a watchdog, but "the
problem in recent years is that the watchdog has become vicious."
He said many people are scared away from political service because
no one is perfect and attacks in the media take a terrible toll
on their families. "Public service has become especially painful
for newcomers, for young people who are being torn apart and don't
understand what's happening to them," he said.
students developing a thick skin and understanding how adversity
can shape people are important characteristics for leaders. "My
experience is that crises usually make or break people," he said.
"Sometimes, the people you might least expect show calm and courage.
They are natural leaders."
students to develop their leadership skills and pursue positions
that require them. "Leadership holds many pitfalls, and you might
be asking why get involved at all," Gergen said. "We need you young
people to stay off the sidelines and be out on the field, advancing
the cause of leadership."
as professor of public service and director of the Center for Public
Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
University. He is editor-at-large at U.S. News and World Report
magazine, hosts "The World at Large with David Gergen"
and appears regularly as an analyst on ABC's "Nightline."
He is a former editor of U.S. News & World Report magazine where
helped to guide the publication to record gains in circulation and
advertising. He became an editor-at-large for U.S. News in 1988.
He was adviser to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton and
chronicled those experiences in the book "Eyewitness to Power:
The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton."
A native of
Durham, N.C., Gergen has shared his knowledge with Elon students
before. In January 2001, he served as a panelist for a symposium
titled "The First 100 Days of the 21st Century Presidency,"
along with journalist Sander Vanocur and historians Michael Beschloss
and William Leuchtenburg. In April 2003, Gergen interviewed legendary
broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite before an audience of 2,900
in Koury Center.