Carl Bernstein addresses College community

Watergate journalist speaks at opening convocation, encourages students to differentiate between “truths, half truths and lies.”

Although himself a college dropout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Bernstein shared his advice with the students of Roanoke College.

Most of them, of course, weren't even born in the early 1970s, when investigative reporting into Watergate cost President Richard Nixon his job. But this year, the students attended the college's traditional Opening Convocation and heard from someone who as a young person had helped change the world.

Standing at the podium in the Bast Center, Bernstein continued trying to inspire the students.

"Hopefully, as a result of your being here, of the inquiry, the spirit of this place," he said, "you will take away the values of a 21st century liberal education far different than the cynicism that seems to have affected my generation's approach to how we deal with our common problems."

Bernstein told the students he received most of his education in the newsroom of The Washington Star, where he worked before The Washington Post.

"That was my learning environment much as yours is here," he said. "And part of your being here is about finding that path to do what you love."

What Bernstein loves apparently is still battling bad government. But now he is doing it by urging people — all people — to get involved. Bernstein said he was impressed by the opening words of college President Michael C. Maxey and Rev. R. Paul Henrickson, the college's Dean of the Chapel. Frequently quoting Henrickson's opening prayer, Bernstein repeatedly advised students to differentiate between "truths, half truths and lies."

"In your era, it's clear that something is not working in America today … and a lot of it does go back to the words in that prayer …. [It's] the notion of the public good, which I fervently hope you will embrace in whatever you choose to involve yourself in, both in your summers away from here and when you leave here and in terms of civic avocation."

Bernstein, who now serves as a political analyst for CNN and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, also talked a lot about the upcoming presidential election, criticizing both parties and urging people to raise questions and get involved.

Although it has been decades since determined reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein worked together bringing about change, the honored college dropout obviously is still having effect. By the end of his speech at Roanoke, he received a standing ovation from at least half of the students in the bleachers.

Released: September 10, 2008
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