Dowd of The New York Times talks daddy issues and the human side of politics

  1. In the Elon University Baird Pultizer Prize Lecture just one day after the elections, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd shared a witty account of her political observations as a journalist and Washington, D.C. native. 
  2. Since her start at Times in 1983 and the launch of her Op-Ed column in 1995, Dowd has become known for weaving humor and on-point analysis of political figures in her pieces.
  3. J_Black13
    “Her analysis about power cuts across partisan lines” – Prof. Barnett #DowdatElon #COM110elon
  4. KyraGemberling
    “Ms. Dowd is very careful with her words, but she has a critical and irreverent approach to talking about those in power.” #DowdatElon
  5. MadelynS
    A snapshot of @NYTimesDowd ‘s Sunday column. Search through her past pieces to find some gems
  6. Dowd says her column, featured in the Sunday Review of the Times’ Opinion Pages, is often hard to write.

    “I never feel it’s good enough,” she said. And she stressed that more often than not, it’s a terrifying process. She said she has to double check any references she makes or puns she dreams up, for fear that her idea has already been used online.
    because of blogging and tweets, it’s like the French Revolution,” she said. “The people
    have taken over. You have to think, how can you think of something that a 20 year-old in San Diego hasn’t already said better, and faster?”

  7. rebeccaiannucci
    Maureen Dowd says it takes “sheer fear” to write a good column. #DowdAtElon
  8. Just how does Dowd hone in on those original ideas – of which she estimates she has two per year – to peak readers’ interest? 
    She said she focuses on the personal. The nuances and underlying factors of political leaders’ actions and the more hidden parts of their personas. For example, the concept of “daddy issues.”
    “I have daddy issues,” she says. “But they’re not my own. Presidential
    campaigns have an underlying paternal theme. Voters look for father figures of
  9. rebeccaiannucci
    Maureen Dowd’s lecture examines the patriarchal nature of the U.S. presidency. #DowdAtElon
  10. Dowd says the nation’s male political leaders are also the ones who look for approval from father figures or, in the case of President Barack Obama, a way to potentially make up for their father’s shortcomings. Dowd mentioned her closeness to George Bush, Sr. during his term as president and how his son and future president George W. Bush had a loving but competitive relationship with him.

    “W felt he
    had to outshine his father,” she said. “He used his
    father as a reverse playbook: if he avoided all his father’s moves, he would
    get the second term his father never had.”

    Obama’s own lack of a paternal presence in his life and Romney’s credit to his father for inspiring his political career pointed to an underlying theme of paternal impact on politicians, Dowd said.

  11. Elizabeth_CMN
    RT @caitlinod319: #DowdAtElon: Before every debate, Mitt Romney placed a paper simply saying”dad” on his podium, as a reminder of his father’s influence.
  12. “Obama grew up in the shadow of his father’s absence,” she said.

    But she added Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008 and his subsequent re-election last night prove that he overcame what many would consider great odds to be able to call 1006 Pennsylvania Ave. his home. 

    “That’s why the president sometimes get faulted for not thanking donors as much,” she said. “He fiercely clings to the narrative that he made it on his own.”

    Dowd said appreciates the opportunity to dig deeper into “what makes presidents tick,” even though she is occasionally called out for it. 

  13. Obama once spoke to her on a plane from Paris to Berlin and told her, “You’re irritating.”

    “That wasn’t the answer I was looking for,” she said.

    Even with resistance from politicians past and present to Dowd’s “psychoanalysis” of their lives, as she puts it, she continues to pry, bringing necessary, critical and often amusing looks at the political figures people think they know.

    “It’s very hard to understand who a President really is,” she says, “Given all of the image shapers today. Trying to get into the heads of powerful narcissistic leaders is a bit like being a president’s shrink.”


TurboVote’s convenience a big draw for many Elon student voters

by Madelyn Smith

Click on the infographic above for an interactive look at how many people from certain states registered through TurboVote.

TurboVote wants voting to be easy for Americans and as “awesome as renting a DVD from Netflix,” it says on its website.

In August, Elon University supported this initiative and announced a partnership with the voter registration nonprofit to help ease the voting process for students.

Since then, 1003 people registered to vote through TurboVote at Elon, and there were a total of 1168 ballot requests from people ages 18 to 65.

TurboVote’s mascot of sorts, appropriately named Turbo, is part of the website’s simple interface with a white background and forms that are easy to fill out and submit.

North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey were among the top states represented in Elon’s ballot requests and registration sign-ups through TurboVote.

The site’s usability certainly contributed to its success at Elon.

“It’s easy to use,” said Sharon Spray, chair of Elon’s political science department. “Especially for students who want to register to vote and participate in voting in a state other than NC.”

Many students in Elon’s large out-of-state population appreciated the opportunity to streamline the voting process.

Jessica Simermeyer, a senior from Finksburg, MD, had registered three years ago after her 18th birthday and did not plan on making the drive home to vote this year.

“All I had to do was log on and request an absentee form,” she said. “Then when I got the form in the mail, I signed off and sent it back. It was very convenient.”

Katie Hadobas, a junior from Fort Worth, TX, said she heard abo

ut TurboVote from an informative email sent by Smith Jackson, Vice President for Student Life. She said signing up for the service took her less than 30 minutes to complete.

“I registered one or two weeks ago,” she said. “I liked it because it’s really simple and it does the busy work for you and cuts down on time.”

Some students like Ryan Vet, a senior from Cary, N.C., experienced a few hiccups during the registration process. He said the directions were occasionally unclear.

“I put my campus box as my current mailing address, thinking it would register me in Elon,” he said. “But I was actually registered in Cary because I put that as my permanent address.”

Vet also said once he was registered to vote, he was inundated with the voting reminder communication TurboVote sent him, including texts and emails.

“They over-communicated a bit, he said. “So I didn’t want to act at times.”

Spray said some students like the simple interface of the website but said it was missing additional bits of information about different candidates.


“But that’s not the purpose of the site,” she said. TurboVote’s FAQ section says its main purpose is to assist with first-time and updated voter registration, absentee ballot submissions and voting reminders in the weeks and days leading up to the elections.

Despite some room for user error with the website’s instructions, Vet said the service is viable and an ideal tool for students to easily register.

“It’s still a good idea and I’ll still vote,” he said. “I’d recommend anything that gets people to vote.”

Elon, Burlington and the local food movement: Creating conscious consumers

After Sandra Sarlinga made the move from Argentina to the United States in 2000, she made a quick stop by a grocery store during her first few weeks in the country. She didn’t like what she found.

“I couldn’t smell any produce,” Sarlinga said. “I wanted the rich scents like at the markets in Argentina, but I didn’t get that in the store. It was upsetting!”

It’s a common scene in American grocery store chains today. Perfectly plump strawberries are stacked neatly against the reddest, shiniest apples, which sit across the aisle from the rich, green bundles of spinach. As is often the case, this produce is picked before it fully ripens to ensure its fresh look by the time it travels – often across the country – to local stores’ shelves.

“If your veggies look perfect, it means no other critter in the world wanted to eat them but you,” said Dr. Norman Wirzba, a research professor at Duke University who spoke at Elon University’s Fall Environmental Forum.

Wirzba’s talk, “Why Sustainable Agriculture Matters,” stressed the need for a real change in society’s mindset when it comes to food. He charged the carnivores and herbivores of the world to take a step back and reexamine where their food is coming from, because, as he put it, “we are the most food ignorant generation the world has ever known.”

“Do we have to grow our food with so much poison, so many pesticides?” Wirzba asked. “Is that what you want to feed yourself?”

For Sandra Sarlinga and her family, that was a definitive no. When she and her husband Fabian moved to Elon, North Carolina, they started The Farm Fairy, a farm which originally sold locally produced honey and now offers artisan breads, lavender, eggs, herbal teas, jellies and soaps, among other products.

Sarlinga’s quest to spread the joy of fresh, healthy food has taken her and her family to several farmers’ markets in the Piedmont area, including the Elon Community Church Farmer’s Market, which is held Thursdays from 2 pm to 6 pm from April to October.

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At a glance, the market’s vendors seem few and far between. There are roughly eight to ten booths per week selling unique and locally produced goods like homemade jams, vegetables, jewelry and tie-dyed clothing. But each vendor has a personality and a story to tell, and a love for their craft is evident.

Michael Strickland, lecturer of English and environmental studies at Elon, said the most notable part of the market is that the vendors are largely located within 20 miles off campus.

“At places like the Company Shops Market in Burlington, which is a local food co-op, you’re writing out all the costs of packaging and shipping food that comes from far away,” he said. “You’re handing your money straight to the guy that grew your food.”

But what about that money? Many people are quick to point out the increased costs associated with buying organic and locally-made foods. Is it worth it to stretch your wallet a bit more for local eats? Is this a realistic lifestyle choice for cash-strapped college students?

Strickland says yes.

In his Sustainable Food Production class two years ago, he had students complete a study of grocery costs. Their goal: to determine if food prices at local chains like Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods were all that different from the Company Shops Market in Burlington.

The students were surprised to find the prices didn’t differ much at all.

After buying the same items at each type of store, they paid just 10 to 15 percent more at the co-op each time. With $100 grocery bill at Harris Teeter, for example, they paid, on average, about $110 at the co-op.

“I tell my students it’s doable, it’s not that expensive,” Strickland said. “If they would just cut down on those other weekly expenses like that one dollar beer or that fancy coffee and plowed their money into buying local food, it could work for them. They could make an impact and a conscious statement to other students about being informed, educated consumers.”

Wirzba said buying local is worthwhile because it helps sustain regional economies and contribute to local business growth. And smaller-scale farming and markets create a thriving culture, not just a thriving economy, he said.

Shoppers who practice “locavorism,” the umbrella term for buying and eating local food, also reap the health benefits.

“Health is an important factor,” Strickland said. “Take a gallon of milk you find at a place like Walmart. The milk comes from who knows where and is probably a mixture from ten different dairy farms. You’d be better off supporting a dairy farm ten miles away that you’re able to track down.”

But Strickland admits it’s often hard to find many local vendors outside of a market setting.
“There are certainly pockets of Burlington that are ‘food desserts,’” he said. “You’d have to travel far to find any local products.”

But he said that, if possible, it’s important to at least know the source of what you’re buying. It may take more effort to research local food vendors, but he said it is certainly worth it.

Living a local lifestyle is a win-win for the consumer and the vendor. For Strickland, the economic and health benefits are plentiful. For Sarlinga, the food quality and taste is unmatched. And for Wirzba, there are unique outlets for personal growth.

“Many jobs only require you to push buttons,” he said. “But with farming, producers and consumers can be connected. You have a wonderful opportunity with lots of local farms in North Carolina to meet the farmers and help them. This makes possible a more celebratory culture. You can grow to know food in a way you haven’t before. You become more grateful over good food. That’s one of the great joys in life.”

Story, graphics, video and photos by Madelyn Smith.

Byron Pitts gives insight into meaning of journalism and coverage of major disasters

Byron Pitts at Elon
Byron Pitts of CBS spoke at Elon University Thursday night about his more than 30 years’ experience as a journalist covering difficult disasters like  9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Madelyn Smith.

by Madelyn Smith

{For additional multimedia and social media coverage of this event, view my Storify piece here.}

Byron Pitts is a self-described optimist, lefty, African American journalist and a storyteller who’s passionate about his craft.

“I’m fortunate every day to be a journalist,” said Pitts in a speech at Elon University Thursday night.

Pitts, whose talk was titled “We are Tough and Delicate Creatures,” is an acclaimed CBS News correspondent, “60 Minutes” contributor and member of Elon’s School of Communications Advisory Board. He has won several Emmys and authored “Step Out on Nothing,” an autobiography based on his youth.

Pitts has experienced no shortage of action during his roughly 30 years as a journalist. He’s covered three wars, interviewed the last six presidents, been to 37 countries and seen almost 50 people die, including the execution of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

“In many ways as a journalist, I’ve made my living covering death,” he said. “I’ve seen people stoned to death, beaten to death.”

But Pitts said he knew going into the profession that he would encounter death, and he said he was prepared for it.

Pitts has also served as a witness and exposed the public to some of the worst natural disasters and war zones in the past decade, including the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“I choose to be optimistic,” he said. “Even being an optimist, I believe what we saw after Hurricane Katrina was that race and class still matter in this nation. We’re not equipped to respond to national disasters well …  I’ve seen what can happen if there is no law and order.”

Pitts described horrific scenes upon his arrival to New Orleans after Katrina: men and women who were left to die or who were already dead lined the main interstate into the city, and it appeared they had been there for days.

“What we saw in New Orleans is that the citizens and the government did not have a plan to take care of themselves,” he said. “The same could happen any place else in this country.”

Pitts said Katrina’s aftermath exposed some of the worst parts of human nature, but that he also saw the best in people, such as those who risked their lives to save others in the wake of the disaster.

“We are capable of incredible things in certain situations,” he said.

Pitts saw such incredible events during his coverage of Sept. 11, where he said his life as a journalist changed dramatically.

He watched in awe with three New York City police officers as the attacks unfolded.  He described a chilling moment where one of the officers believed someone was sending a flag or help signal from one of the Twin Towers, when in reality it was a woman jumping to her death in the debris below.

“I watched people die who played no role in their own death,” he said. “All they did was get up and go to work.”

It’s moments like these and the acts of honor that follow that Pitts said impact him the most as a journalist. He told stories of New York City residents gathering by the masses to help rescue people from the debris in the days following the attacks. He described seeing patients pausing to sing the Haitian national anthem in the middle of an overcrowded hospital following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Pitts said he feels called as a journalist to give people access to truthful information about such significant events. He said only when people are properly informed can they help when help is needed.

“We’ve shown as a nation that people will do the right thing if people have access to the right information,” he said. “My role is a witness … I see myself as a storyteller.”

And Pitts doesn’t think storytelling is going out of style.

“As long as there’s a United States of America, there will be a place for journalists,” he said. “As long as there are children who want to be read to at night, there will be a place for storytellers.”

‘Crazy for You’ cast preps for classic, energetic American musical

Video and story by Kassondra Cloos, Ashley Fahey and Madelyn Smith

They’re just two weeks into the rehearsal process, but it’s clear the actors of Elon University’s fall musical are already having fun.

The cast has been rehearsing five days a week for the upcoming production “Crazy For You,” written by Ken Ludwig with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. The show will open Oct. 25.

“It is truly hilarious,” said Taylor Aucott, a junior music theatre major. “It’s very funny, very cleverly written. Obviously there are (the) soft parts and the more dramatic parts but ultimately, it’s a very feel good musical.”

'Crazy For You' beings October 25 in McCrary Theatre at Elon University.

“Crazy for You” is considered a more traditional song-and-dance style show. It centers around a middle-of-nowhere town in Nevada, where the locals are attempting to put on a musical.

The audience can expect a different feel than last fall’s “Hair.”

“’Hair’ was based in the late ‘60s,” said junior music theatre major Karrah Fleshman. “It was very experimental and very open-ended. With this musical, it’s kind of more structured, it has this specific story plot and the characters carry themselves very differently.”

With the major numbers in the first act largely under their belts, the cast is busy sharpening dance routines and trying to get off book as soon as possible, said Ben Redding, senior music theatre major.

“We are showing up to rehearsal every night, putting in those hours and eventually it will all come together,” he said.

Fleshman said rehearsals will relocate to McCrary Theatre starting in October, when the cast will be rehearsing seven days a week.

Since it is so early in the rehearsal process, it’s hard for the cast and crew to gauge how the show will turn out.

“It’s at a very good place for where we are in the process, but I don’t know what is to come,” Aucott said. “Cathy McNeela and Linda Sabo, our director and choreographer, are brilliant, so I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful. But it’s still somewhat of a mystery to me.”

The players of “Crazy for You” are enthusiastic about the musical’s high energy and witty dialogue.

“There’s a lot of dramatic irony in it, so the audience knows what’s going on, but the people on stage don’t know what’s going on,” Aucott said. “It’s very funny to see how people can handle (it).”

The dance numbers also contribute to the show’s quirkiness and charm.

“A lot of dance rehearsals kicking our butts,” Fleshman said. “(Sabo) is just a creative genius. In ‘Slap that Bass,’ there’s this iconic human bass number where the girls pretend they’re bass cellos.”

Aucott said it is an entertaining and good old-fashioned tap show with great dancing, acting and singing.

The other cast members seemed to share the same sentiment. Fleshman, who plays a showgirl in the musical, called it a “wonderful show.” She encouraged audiences to look out for the twists and turns of a classic love story.

“It’s filled with dancing and cowboys and love and wonderfulness,” she said.

Click here for more information about ‘Crazy for You’ including dates, times and ticket information.

[Photostory] Elon art course engages students in out-of-the-box exhibit

Photos, audio and story by Ronda Ataalla, Stephanie Petrich and Madelyn Smith

Art Appropriated, a display held Sunday, Sept. 9, was organized by the Art 360 course at Elon University. Students were instructed to take a picture of an existing photo and relate it to some perception they have of Elon’s campus or community.

The students were able to establish their own meaning of the work through the subject matter they chose and the title they created. Their chosen photos were resized onto large photo paper and put on display at a small set-up outside Belk Library Sunday afternoon.

Students who stopped to take a look at the exhibit were encouraged to write down word associations with each photo as well as their own thoughts on what the work means to them.
The atmosphere resulted in an out-of-the-box art exhibit that got students thinking about the different ways Elon is portrayed and how vastly different each person’s understanding of a photo can be.

Charles Cook visits Elon University, discusses ‘personality’ of 2012 elections

by Madelyn Smith

September 10, 2012

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Two years ago this week, Charles Cook visited Elon University with predictions of big change in the U.S. political landscape.

Cook, author of The Cook Political Report, contributor to the National Journal and frequent NBC political analyst, spoke of potential turnover from Democrats to Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also saw an “enthusiasm gap” that saw more registered Republicans going to the polls than their liberal counterparts.

Monday night, Cook traveled to the university to outline his expectations for the climate of the 2012 elections, and he sees more big changes – good and bad – on the way.

“Every election has its own personality,” Cook said. “And this one’s no exception.”

In a decidedly objective talk, Cook said there are clear strengths and weaknesses of each candidate that have manifested themselves over the course of the two party conventions. Obama, he said, has a strong campaign, even with voters’ lingering disappointment from his past four years in the Oval Office.

“When an economy is this bad, presidents don’t get reelected,” Cook said. “That’s the norm.”

The economic forecast isn’t expected to improve a great deal before November’s elections, and criticism of Obama’s handling of the economy is not a mystery.

“You sort of look at all of this and you say ‘OK, I’m focused on the economy, and he shouldn’t get reelected,” Cook said. “But there’s a second part of it, when you look over on the Romney side. I’m looking at an incumbent who is simply running a better campaign.”

Cook said Romney’s camp made key campaign mistakes in the past few months that may have hurt his numbers, especially in swing states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

“The Romney campaign focused 99 percent of their efforts on convincing people that the economy is terrible and they can blame President Obama,” Cook said. “What they’re not doing is focusing on the second half of the equation: should you feel comfortable with Mitt Romney? In the past two weeks, there hasn’t been much saying he’s someone you can trust in the presidency.”

Cook said the Romney campaign’s poor planning at the Republican National Convention – choosing to air Clint Eastwood’s speech during valuable network time – may also play a role in how voters view the sometimes mysterious Romney.

“(They) missed an opportunity to connect (their) guy to the swing states that matter,” he said.

Cook said despite what he may hint in his political reports or what voters may predict, there is no doubt the presidential race will be a close one.

“If one candidate does or says something stupid, it changes the trajectory of the race,” he said.

He added that voters should keep two questions in mind for the upcoming elections. The first, ‘Do I want to renew this president’s contract for another four years?’ And the second, ‘Do I want to hire Mitt Romney? Is he an acceptable alternative?’

Obama’s presidential contract could well be renewed with effective campaigning including prevalent advertising, Cook said.

Romney may have to work harder at his reputation as a candidate who is equipped to find the much-needed middle ground in Washington, Cook added.

“The question is if Romney wins, will he have the personality type or temperament to do this kind of thing,” he said. “He’s a braniac. But if he had taken the Myers-Briggs test, would it have told him he should go into politics? Well, no.”

Cook said the kind of people who have the kind of temperament to be a president are not running anymore.

“Or at least they’re not winning,” he said. “I hope that the kind of people who have that talent and the right temperament will run in bigger numbers in the next ten, twenty years,” he added.  “It’s game time, and we’re going to need people to step up. But if you are going to, behave yourselves beforehand.”