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WOTS: Bierbauer Addresses Model UN Attendees

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David Morar sent in this report about last night’s keynote speech by Charles Bierbauer.

The speech was held for the Penn State Model UN Conference that is being held this weekend. If we had the chance to go, we would have been in the Pantheon of the Gods committee. It’s being chaired by Zeus!

A distinguished alumnus of Penn State, Prof. Charles Bierbauer is the Dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina, an Emmy award-winning journalist, and CNN’s former chief White House correspondent, but for the students present in 102 Thomas he was a great inspiration.

Even though the pouring rain kept a great number of students from showing up, the turnout was just perfect for Prof. Bierbauer to have a great and comfortable discussion. His speech covered three major areas, his personal journey, from reporting in Afganistan, to covering the White House, the Reagan and H.W. Bush era, from the way Americans were perceived abroad, to how the news was made, and finally about the Obama administration, on the challenges and opportunities facing the new President.

Not divulging his political affinities (“I’ve voted for both democrats and republicans and regret it sincerely”) Charles Bierbauer took us through the basics of the Reagan years. Mostly from outside the country, since while stationed in Europe he got to experience celebrations for Reagan’s victory, as foreigners were unsure of where Jimmy Carter stood for and were embracing the former’s clear message against the communists. But also from the inside of the Washington political machine, as he, senior correspondent for an up-and-coming station called CNN, navigated through the White House Press Corps.

Read the rest after the jump.

2008-01-11-cspanbierbauer1The personal feel of the 45-minute speech was obvious when he addressed matters of embedded journalism, front-line reporting and being part of history-making decisions. He shared stories from his time in Germany, he detailed his visits through pre-1989 Eastern Europe, his time in Moscow, and joked about the way his bosses told him what to do. ” I was the bureau chief for Moscow, basically I was one person covering 14 timezones and maintaining an office in the capital. It was hard for my bosses to understand that, and they felt that every time I left the capital for a trip that I had planned months in advance something big was about to happen inside the Kremlim. Once they told me that Brezhnev was going to die and that I should cancel my trip. How did they know from the U.S. when I was right there in Moscow? Of course he didn’t die”

Tackling the issue of what the new President has to face, Bierbauer noted that it’s time to see the administration in action, and likened his election to that of Reagan, in the sense that the outside world was getting a clear message from one candidate, and was seeing hope in the renewal of America’s standing in the world, after 8 years of mismanaged policies and wars. While the experience of those in charge is important, and the professional qualifications of Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and Joe Biden are crucial, he warned that there was an equal amount of impressive resumes in the foreign policy/national security team when George Bush (junior) took over the White House.

While joking about his hesitance to come up from South Caroline in February, Charles Bierbauer told the audience about how amazed he was at the changes in the campus since his days here in the 1960’s. Since time was running out and the opening ceremony for the Model UN Conference had to be over at some point, the time for the Q&A was reduced to only three questions. While two of these had to do with general issues about the tabloidization of the news and the media as a possible tool of government, one question was about how to go about becoming a foreign correspondent. After a few preliminary questions to ask the student where she wanted to go and what her foreign language is, Dean Bierbauer broke out his German and told the Journalism major that the language she knows, German, is mainly useless, nowadays, but offered some alternative advice, in English, this time.

As the standing ovation marked the end of the speech and the begining of the Home Conference for the Penn State International Affairs and Debate Association, Prof. Charles Bierbauer stuck around to talk to some of the students that asked questions, give some more info, and take a picture with the PSIADA members.

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