By Kelsey Renz
I had the opportunity to attend the SMPA and Face the Facts USA event, "Out of Time: An American Crisis," at the Jack Morton Auditorium yesterday evening. The event featured experts tackling fictional scenarios of American crisis in a panel moderated by award-winning journalist and SMPA Director Frank Sesno. I felt that this was a classic example of an "only at GW" experience, because how many college students can say they were in the audience of a vibrant political discussion which was broadcast and streamed live to C-SPAN and The Huffington Post, respectively? I was honored to be a small part of such an historic event.
A sample of the topics discussed over the course of the evening includes the potential shutdown of a large factory and the subsequent loss of jobs, as well as a devastating bridge collapse. Business, political and media professionals came together in a dynamic panel to confront these problems and the broader issue of America's future. It was fantastic to see a variety of perspectives represented, including those of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. I was pleased that the panel of guests was well rounded, including not only individuals with political experience but also those with careers in business and journalism. In my opinion, this helped the discussion become a stimulating conversation rather than an ordinary political debate.
I must admit that I was particularly excited to see one woman's name in the program, Ms. Farai Chideya. Chideya is a popular journalist, blogger and author. As a Journalism and Mass Communication major, I was very interested to see how Ms. Chideya would respond to the questions posed during the event. I am glad to report that she did not disappoint.
I was delighted to see that every detail of the hypothetical crises had been thought out. For example, after Mr. Sesno mentioned certain scenarios, he played a fictional news clip from GNN, short for "Global News Network." I thought this was very creative, and it certainly went above and beyond what I was expecting. In addition, Mr. Sesno placed facts alongside the imaginary situations in order to convey the message that these fictional crises are not implausible in today's environment. The juxtaposition of fact and fiction helped me place the "political theater" background into a real-world context.
The participants were very passionate and dedicated not only to portraying their respective roles in each scenario but also to contributing their best responses to each question. I particularly enjoyed listening to former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, who stood by his convictions and maintained a sense of humor. I loved his response to one question in which he stated that he would "call Frank Sesno" and get himself on television to have a discussion centered on the facts. This kind of inventive response kept me smiling and interested to hear what the panelists had to say.