Twitter revolutions, WikiLeak revelations, blogging, and the power of social media to inform people throughout the world were among the topics addressed by U.S. State Department spokesperson Philip “P.J.” Crowley when he visited campus March 10.
Crowley did not deny the obvious tensions between government and the news but explained how the two can and have worked together to effect social change.
“The news media, rightly so, are a mechanism of checks and balances,” he said. Speaking to a select group of Journalism students gathered in a Walker Building classroom, Crowley discussed the nature of his work and the use of media as a conduit between government and the American people.
“In a small way, what I do every day—standing up and asking questions about policies and views of this and that—is all a function of trying to make government responsive to and transparent to its citizenry.”
Despite the fact that views about American society differ from one citizen to the next, or from one nation to another, one thing Crowley said is certain in America is the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another and then back again.
“That’s something that doesn’t happen everywhere,” he explained after citing a number of countries across the globe currently struggling to transition into democratic governance, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria, Guinea, and Haiti.
“But how do you get this kind of responsive, accountable government?” asked Crowley.
The answer was obvious—if you’re a Journalism major.
“[Through] an effective, relatively objective free press, which is an essential element of a functioning democracy,” Crowley concluded.
After his remarks, students asked questions ranging from the upcoming elections in Nigeria to a request for more courtesy from immigration officials at U.S. borders.
Crowley, a Massachusetts native, leads the Bureau of Public Affairs under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Nominated by President Barack Obama and sworn into office in May 2009, Crowley led the Center for American Progress prior to taking on his current role. He also served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring in September 1999 at the rank of Colonel.
Crowley’s visit was made possible through a collaboration between students in the Journalism Department and WorldBoston, a nonprofit organization that hosts distinguished speakers and works with the State Department to help channel hundreds of international visitors into the country to participate in the State Department’s programs.
Photo credit: Rhea Becker