Winter study brings visiting speakers

Throughout Winter Study, guest lecturers and prominent visitors of all kinds will be coming to campus for the privilege of speaking to Williams students. Certain Winter Study courses, notably Corporate Leadership and Social Responsibility, Hands-On Investigative Reporting and Presidential Leadership: Washington to FDR, are hosting a series of distinguished figures.

Jane Swift, acting governor of the state of Massachusetts, has already visited the Corporate Leadership and Social Responsibility class. “She discussed her opinion on leadership, and some of the qualities that a good leader should possess in order to succeed,” said Kurt Brumme ’05, a student in the class. Governor Swift also spoke on dealing with harsh media criticism. When the press picks up on details as minute as the placement of a pin or style of shoe, the governor told the class it becomes difficult to defend her platforms objectively.

Other notables are also scheduled to speak with the Leadership class: Ethan Zuckerman, CEO of Geekcorps and an expert on bringing technology to developing nations, will be visiting today; Peter Willimott, president and CEO of Willmott Services, Inc., is visiting on the Jan. 18; and former Williams College President Carl Vogt, now an attorney at Fulbright and Jaworski firm, is speaking on the Jan. 23.

Last Wednesday, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood visited campus at the behest of Professors James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn to deliver a public lecture on President George Washington. Wood’s lecture set forth the theory that Washington, after the ratification of the Constitution and his own ascension to the presidency, acted as a sort of democratic monarch.

Wood asserted that Washington, by rising above partisan politics and refusing party affiliation, provided a powerful neutral force in the young republic akin to the influence exerted by royals in Europe. While the Washingtonian tradition of neutrality was not propagated by following presidents, his presidency did invaluable service to the growth of the American republic. Wood presented his thesis with great success to the assembled audience.

Stephen Miller, technology editor for The New York Times and a national board member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, spoke to Willy Stern’s journalism classes last Friday. Miller gave a presentation on judging the credibility of sources found on the Internet.

“Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it’s true,” Miller told the classes.

Miller also spoke on the Freedom of Information Act of 1966, which gave US citizens the right to access government information.

He then participated in a “brown bag lunch” sponsored by the Office of Career Counseling (OCC). To students who dined on meatball subs with him in the Bryant Room at Greylock dining hall, Miller emphasized the importance of practice in becoming a successful journalist.

“Just write,” Miller insisted.

Yesterday, Eben Shapiro, formerly a writer for The New York Times and business editor at Newsweek, and currently a deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal, visited Stern’s classes. Shapiro presented a sequence of ethical dilemmas in reporting which he drew from the investigative experience of his colleagues and himself. At lunch, students had the opportunity to further question Shapiro about journalism and ethics.

“It was interesting to see that things he said happened in the real world,” said Dan Krass ’05.

Shapiro revealed that on several occasions he had misled or flattered potential sources in order to get explosive stories before his competitors. In Shapiro’s opinion, however, all good reporters must make sacrifices to get compelling stories.

Soon to speak is Lynn Oberlander, in- house lawyer with Forbes Magazine and previously a senior media counselor for NBC television network. Lunch with Oberlander will take place in the Stage room at Greylock, 12:15 on Jan. 21.