Maverick lecturer talks politics, impeachment

Photo by Martina Almeida

Broadcast journalist and PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff headlined as this year’s Maverick lecturer. e audience greeted her with a standing ovation from the moment she walked on stage. Much of the lecture was spent explaining national politics from analyzing several of the democratic candidates to explaining the ongoing impeachment process for U.S. president Donald Trump. Woodruff’s overarching theme was that journalists are essential to a democracy and that they must be held accountable.

The Office of Alumni Relations works with the Scanlan Foundation to select the speaker. Michelle Bartonico, assistant vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing, also worked with the groups to choose Woodruff. According to Bartonico, the Maverick Lecture’s popularity has grown significantly over the last few years.

“The Maverick Lecture typically occurs in Stieren eater, but with the growing popularity of this lecture series, the decision was made to move the Woodruff event to Laurie [Auditorium]. is was arguably our most attended Maverick Lectures in its history including the viewership on Tiger Network where people watched from around the world,” Bartonico wrote in an email interview.

According to Bartonico, the team hopes to bring speakers that will engage the Trinity community and the extended community.

“We target audience includes the campus and external community. It is always our primary goal to bring relevant, renowned speakers who can provide the community a window to the world. We are proud to do this as a free event. External to the Trinity community, our key audience included individuals interested in politics and the PBS NewsHour,” Bartonico wrote in an email interview.

The lecture began with an introduction given by University president Danny Anderson that focused on acknowledging the Salome and William Scanlan Foundation which funds the Maverick lecture in memory of Maury Maverick, a San Antonio native and journalist.

Following the introduction, Woodruff discussed the ongoing interviews and impeachment hearing happening on Capitol Hill. She emphasized that the political climate is more tumultuous than ever.

“Right now is one of it not the most extraordinary and unpredictable times that I or my colleagues have ever seen,” Woodruff said in her lecture.

Further, Woodruff highlighted the importance of journalism and civic engagement in today’s political climate. As a journalist, she asserted that readers must be able to trust their news sources and that it is up to journalists to gain that trust.

“We know in the end all we have is our credibility. Having said that, this is a challenging time for Washington. The work of journalists is on the line now and so is the responsibility of the American people,” Woodruff said.

Though Woodruff believes that some media sources have begun to cherry pick information and have not remained neutral in their reporting, she pointed out that there are many reporters working to obtain the facts.

“Clearly we slip up at times but our bottom line — my bottom line — is committed to the facts,” Woodruff said.

Later in her lecture, Woodruff spoke in detail about several potential Democratic presidential candidates, including Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

“I never rule out anything out but it looks like right now to be the rest of the democrats have a very steep hill to climb,” Woodruff said.

Towards the end of the lecture, Woodruff called on the audience to remain civically engaged and aware.

“Please stay tuned. It’s all important. It matters. It’s unfolding before our very eyes, and we’re counting on you, the American people, to make this critical decision as we do every four years. And as you do, please hold us, the press, responsible,” Woodruff said.

Caroline Wheat, 1986 alumna, was excited to hear from a national figure on the issues she cared about.

“I do [public relations] for a living, so I was interested to hear a point of view from somebody who is on the front lines. I feel like the media is under siege. I do think that they are important to the checks and balances of our society, so I wanted to hear her point of view,” Wheat said.

On the same note, Julie Fisher, whose husband graduated from Trinity in 1980, appreciated the tone of the lecture.

“I think she was very impassioned about that we are just really at a critical time, and it felt like she almost gave a rallying cry to get people to really pay attention to what’s happening right now,” Fisher said.

Helia Moore-Sepulveda, whose husband graduated in 1956, believes that Woodruff’s lecture has highlighted the increase in civic engagement throughout the country.

“Trump I think has actually done the country a great service. There are so many people now who have familiarized themselves with the political arena. So many people have become interested in politics because of Trump. I do think he deserves full credit,” Moore-Sepulveda said.