Do Americans understand the value of news reporting? If every single American had the chance to visit the Newseum, they would. In a world where some reporters live in fear for their lives under the shadow of oppressive government, America is a golden example of uninhibited press. Oftentimes the American public takes power of the press for granted.
I regained my admiration and respect for journalists after weaving through the amazing exhibits in the Newseum. I found the most interesting display to be the News History Exhibit. This exhibit archived a decade’s worth of breaking news stories. On the interactive touch screens I was able to play broadcasts covering the OJ Simpson trial, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing and many more. I spent a good 45 minutes just in this one area of the museum. Looking at segment after segment of fierce reporting on events that impacted the world gave me a new perspective on the role of media.
Our country was founded on the idea that freedom of the press would create a watchdog for government. The News History exhibit sparked my reflection on the importance of our First Amendment rights and the sad reality that America is one of only a few countries that upholds freedom of the press. (In photo: The First Amendment is engraved in the stone face of the Newseum.)
One of the amazing things about the Hilltop on the Hill program is the opportunity to meet alumni who are active in the communications and journalism fields. Due to the amazing connections of our faculty and the fact that many alums are more than willing to offer advice to their fellow Mustangs, we had VIP access. We were able to listen to the experiences and wisdom of accomplished people like Taylor Thornley, who at 22 years old is a deputy press secretary to the gubernatorial candidate of Virginia, and Robert Hillman, an editor for Washington’s prime political publication, Politico. (In photo: We took a VIP tour of the Politico newsroom.)
The Hilltop on the Hill program wasn’t your typical fall break vacation. We were constantly on the go, and I felt totally immersed in the professional and political tone of Washington, D.C.
Our trek down the famous D.C. Mall was one of the most majestic and patriotic experiences of the trip. The mall includes the Capitol Building and the Lincoln, Washington, World War II and Vietnam Memorials. I personally preferred the Lincoln Memorial. Looking up at the huge likeness of Abe Lincoln is a very humbling experience. With the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation inscribed on the walls of the memorial, I found myself reflecting on the importance of public speaking and debate.
When Professor Ben Voth, our SMU speech and debate team coach, stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and pointed to the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech,” it intensified this reflection for me. Our country celebrates public speaking, and the legacy of major public orators in U.S. history surges through the memorials of the D.C. Mall.