Plenary Session B Building a Bridge lunch included Grand Hall A 1


I apologize for interrupting your lunch conversation. I hope it continues after lunch and after our speakers but it’s the sound it’s that pleasant hubbub of a conference that’s going well people interested in the topics hopefully exchanging ideas comparing notes and so we’re happy to have that sort of atmosphere and spirit here. And hopefully everything this morning has gone well. Any sort of general reaction to what you’ve heard and seen? Clapping. Oh good that’s that’s precisely what we’d hoped for and we look forward to continuing that very same response and engendering that same sort of reaction this afternoon. Before we introduce our first speaker today at lunch, I’d like to take just a moment and thank a couple of people who are in the audience. Well of course everyone here is a distinguished guest but there are a couple of folks I’d like to draw attention to in particular Dr. Michael Mahalio from the Appalachian College Association, the president of the Appalachian College Association. Michael before he was president on ACA was president and Chancellor at Davis and Elkins College and so we are delighted to have Michael here. Wearing both hats his davis & Elkins hat and also his ACA hat and we appreciate his joining us dr. Clark Egnore our vice chancellor for international education and initiatives from our higher education policy Commission our state-level governing board Clark we’re delighted that you’re here with us. Clapping. Clark and I have known each other for a long time and there is no more devoted champion and advocate for international higher education than Clark and what he’s done since he’s gone to HEPC has just been extraordinary so Clark thank you again for joining us and being a part of this. and Kate Speakse from the office of the Secretary of Education and the arts. Is Kate here? Oh Kate how are you nice to see you again. Kate thank you for joining us. Clapping. The office of the Secretary of Education and the Arts Secretary Kay Goodwin very generous and her support of this conference and its activities. So so thanks to to the three of you and your organization’s you represent for your support of our work. And now I have the pleasure of introducing Kevin Ann Willy. I will refer to you as we have done throughout our sessions to read the biographies of our presenters and our speakers that were provided to you in the conference registration materials I’m going to supplement those today at lunch with just a few brief comments. If you read the biography of Kevin Ann Willie you know she’s vice-president and the editorial page editor at the Dallas Morning News and we are honored to host her here today as a very special guest representing the Pulitzer Prize Board. And so through her we extend profound thanks to the Pulitzer Prize centennial campfires initiative and the Federation of state humanities councils for creating both the intellectual space and providing the financial support that enable us to gather here this week to celebrate Pearl S. Buck’s life and legacy. In addition to their shared connections of the Pulitzer Prize, Kevin and Pearl are both champions of the importance and value of writing. As part of her profile as a distinguished alumna of Northern Arizona University Keven observed that good writing is important and it is a skill. Good writers will always have a job somewhere. If you are informed, smart, and can see both sides of an issue there will always be a market for that and I suspect Pearl would agree with that assessment wholeheartedly. And so to tell us more about the centennial celebration and a century of extraordinary writing produced by Pulitzer Prize winners I am very pleased to introduce Keven Ann Willy. Clapping. Wonderful. Well thank you so much it’s great to be here for a wonderful event that you all have stood together to honor the groundbreaking work of Pearl S Buck and the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes. I am delighted to be here and to share the stage with Dr. Kang Liang and such a variety and impressive list of scholars I do bring with me greetings from the Pulitzer Boar and especially from the Pulitzer Prize board Centennial committee. I’d like to thank the West Virginia Humanities Council West Virginia University and the Erickson Alumni Center of course for conceiving and executing this event. I’d like to talk a little bit about the Pulitzer Prizes their history why it’s important particularly in this day and age to celebrate the hundredth anniversary. So, I’m going to suggest that we start by setting the stage with a video it was produced for the Pulitzer Prizes by the Museum in Washington DC it’s 12 minutes long and I think you’ll like it. They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. But there he was, the man with brown skin and kinky hair a defining moment in history. To use a word that’s easily inappropriate for politics as it was transcendental. It was qualitatively different this crowds it was supporters and I think that informed the way I go throughout year I grew up in the segregated south Orangeburg South Carolina after killing of Jim Crow 1968. To think that in my lifetime we would elect the first black president was just amazing. I’ve stepped up and write about the experience so to the one of the Pulitzer Prize was just you know a moment. The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today. They honor distinguished works of literature, music, drama, and print journalism. Bob Woodward hired me when he was metro editor and to this day he is the resourceful resourceful supporter of the night. I felt Irene Besser was working at a small paper she stumbled on a a big story grabbed on and couldn’t let go. She was able to tell their stories which also told our story until as a country and who we were what decisions we were making. The Pulitzers we look at the cream of the crop and and those pieces that I think resonate beyond their particular topic area. This is a recognition by fashion that really does live beyond the one way and fashionizings. Plus for a second this really is about culture retention it like that’s the billboard for a peri-time. I feel that I am writing for people who don’t have a voice. There was one fellow Matt Stsanley who had my picture and a red circle and slashed through my face in his office. The army literally was calling my boss telling to kill the story and when that didn’t work they called my boss’s boss and as soon as we did our reporting the cat was out of the bag and the army immediately stopped stripping em of VA benefits. Journalists who do this type of work you could either say its a calling maybe a personality defect. They do it because they have to do it whether it’s the people that dug through the data or walked through the war zones. Its this act of bearing witness. I swung my grafic around and held it and I could only hope that it turned out the way that I looked at it from the fire. We’ve seen some incredibly brave war correspondence. When I write in 62 Wiz Galaga who was the AP president believed that the American public would be willing to hear the truth about Vietnam and he said go ahead and report everything you see and Peter don’t make any mistakes. We became very aware through the AP and up the pentagon the military high command in the White House and statement were not happy with our coverage frankly we didn’t give a damn. Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. It never looked as terrible as it was. And we even wondered if that was a pretty place too. After you consider things from his point of view and to get to know these people you have to know where they went. It was like a scar to know how our democracy works. How it really works. In both master of the senate and power broker I examine power from one layer. You can figure out how we get it and explain it to people, you’ll be fill the gap in our knowledge about how political power really works. Robert Bossess basically said anyone who wants a contract from the city or state will never speak evil so when I saw that not only was there not a book that wasn’t a single magazine or newspaper article examining the public authorities as source of political power. To work for seven years basically with no one terribly interested in what you’re doing but being broke a lot of the time but then at the end of it ot have a Pulitzer Prize that’s really something. Political cartoons are so vitally important to democracy the first bullets are winning cartoon you can understand it one hundred thousand years from now in terms of social justice human rights and really just the powerful visual. You can get away with so much, if we are strong the rest of journalism is. The tough part about being a cartoonist is your beat is everything. Singing with Music. The Pulitzer music library started in 1943 interesting life and just shortly after Aaron Copeland, Virgil Thomson, Charles Ives helped define the American Voices. It was a Pulitzer first, jazz in the category usually reserved for classical music. Blood on the fields traces the journey of an African couple sold into slavery in the United States. I am the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner for commemorating life in the anthracite coal mine region of Pennsylvania. There certainly is a kind of poetic history. Two roads diverse in a yellow wood. I love my crooked feet shaped my damaged work shoes made top lines belief. It is like what we imagined knowledge to be dark, soft, clear, looming, eyerly free. Wendellen Brooks who was the first African-American poet to get the prize is somebody whose work has shaped generations of buyers. My question is as a poet are really simple and I think they come down to sense what do we do to one another and why? And I think what a poem does is it brings us to a place where we can become aware of all that we wish we knew how to say. Anything last week they handed out the Pulitzer Prizes. The gold medals went not to a great metropolitan newspaper but to two weekly papers in North Carolina. Their editors decided to fight and expose the Ku KLux Kllan. What great breaking news it really was being in the south during civil rights movement. The time when the KKK was not just three scared letters but a reality was amazingly brave. To allow the history of the partisans there were also negro columnists who suffered because of the position they took and yet they persisted. It is imperative that each of us examine our own heart and conscience and determine what part we play in creating a society that permits a man to be murdered because of his desire to be free and equal under the law. I don’t just want people to think I ant them to feel when they look at pictures. That’s the only way you’re going to get a real response. Was a routine rescue and all of a sudden everything went to garbage. I still remember thinking to myself I don’t want to see them hit. Without words the best photographs will be immediately something of importance. I had no idea that the effects have I still don’t understand it even today. We all felt attacked everybody felt attacked and that gave us the energy to cover this story. No matter how massive a story it is how disastrous it may be the human element is the thing that reaches out and touches people. We won in 1986 for coverage of the Colombian volcano that caused a mudslide and 25,000 people or more were killed. One of the most tragic things to see was the little girl who was trapped in the rubble and couldn’t dislodge her. Those are the kinda things that break your heart and I think probably resonated with so many people that one little girl six months later I found the mother and she felt like it gave her daughter’s death meaning to have been a symbol of this horrible tragedy which brought a lot of help of course to the town and to the people. And I think the most important thing about any award is shining the light back on the story. when you look down the list of winners, these are all people who took risks who really wanted to help people to understand what was really going on. The one word that I come back to that is intact. The Pulitzer prize is vital in keeping the exhilaration alive. Its the announcement each year that there’s one book of poems each year that ought to be read because its that important and its that powerful. I think its an amazing documentation of who we are as human beings. The Pulitzer Prize is just the one that matters the most. In the shorthand it means that this is last. We live in a the world where everything changes faster and faster so nothing seems to be durable. One of the things that’s endured for centuries is is the symbolic value of the Pulitzer Prize. They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. Well that’s quite a walk down memory lane. Every time I experience this video I’m struck by the passion that drives the people behind every one of the works that we just saw flashed by. And it’s that same passion I think that has driven this year’s centennial celebrations of the Pulitzer Prize. There are literally hundreds of Pulitzer celebration events going on this year and I’d like to take a moment to briefly describe that landscape. First of all there are four national marquee events each of which has its own theme and each of which is designed to highlight a specific aspect of the Pulitzer Prize body of work. All the marques have been cross-disciplinary and by that I mean that they incorporate the best of American journalism, American literature, and the arts American Arts. The first marquee which we can go to a slide, yes, was in st. Petersburg ,Florida in March. That was in partnership with a Poynter Institute for Media Studies and it focused on the voices of social justice and equality. The second marquee was in Los Angeles in May in partnership with the Los Angeles Times and USC’S Annenberg School for Communication and journalism. And it focused on war, migration, and the quest for peace. The third marquee was in Dallas in June its title was The People, The Presidency, and the press. And it was a very unusual collaboration between the Pulitzer Board, the Dallas Morning News and the three presidential libraries that are in Texas LBJ Bush 41 Bush 43. And I just came from Cambridge for the fourth and final Marquee of the year. This one was in collaboration with the Nieman Foundation and was titled Power, Accountability andAbuse. Each of these has focused to top have featured top caliber scholars, journalists, artists, policymakers, Pulitzer Prize winners. But wait there’s more. The Pulitzer board partnered nearly two years ago with the Federation of state humanities councils in 46 states and territories on a 1.7 million dollar project aimed at deepening the public discourse around the values embodied by the Pulitzer Prizes in a much more organic sort of way. Funded by the Pulitzer board, the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Knight Foundation, the project became known as our campfire initiative it was named in the interest of fanning the flames of light and passion across the country. So each of the humanities councils is hosting multiple centennial events. These campfires range in scope from book fairs, poetry slams, journalism, workshops, to musical ensembles, panel discussions, and drama readings. The West Virginia Humanities Council with this event is a stellar example. Like the marquees the campfires are designed to highlight the first 100 years of the Pulitzer Prizes and to inspire new audiences for the next hundred years around the values that undergo the Prizes. Those values are unstinting fact-finding, well researched analysis, lucid writing, rigorous self-reflection, cultural discovery, and most important public service. Now we’re going to click through just a few slides in quick succession here just to show you the breadth of what’s been going on and it’s still going on. All over the country, you can go to Pulitzer.org we have a new website for more information about the prize celebrations across the country, the history, and the winning work. So let’s take a minute and talk a bit about that history. The Pulitzer Prizes were established by Joseph Pulitzer a Hungarian immigrant who came to this country in the 19th century unable to speak the language and at least for a while even to hold a job. His rise to the vanguard of American journalism and the legacy of the prizes that bear his name is testament to American ingenuity, perseverance, and leadership. I commend you a biography of Joseph Pulitzer named Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power by James McGrath Morris. Joseph Pulitzer was a genuine force of nature a passionate crusader against government corruption a fierce competitor who didn’t shrink from sensationalism to get the upper hand in circulation Wars and a visionary who was the first to call for the training of journalists at the university level and who richly endowed his profession. In his will, he gave Columbia University two million dollars to start a school of journalism and to establish what became known as the Pulitzer Prizes. A quarter of the funds was to go to prizes and scholarships for quote the encouragement of public service, public morals, American literature, and the advancement of education. I’ve always particularly liked this quote from the father of the prizes. “I am deeply interested in the progress and education of journalism having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people. I desire to assist in attracting to this profession young men of character and ability also to help those already engaged in the profession to acquire the highest moral and intellectual training.” So the Pulitzer Prizes began with four journalism awards, four letters Awards, one education award, and five traveling scholarships. Over the years, the Pulitzer Prizes have morphed into 21 annual awards: 14 journalism categories, 5 book categories, drama and music. In many ways, this expansion of categories of course is a wonderful thing because more and varied work gets recognized.For those of us on the Pulitzer board however, this explosion of categories has made for an explosion of work. We on the board have essentially five months to read the three finalists in each of the 21 categories, we’re doing this while we’re doing our day jobs by the way, then we attend a two-day event at Columbia University in April prepared to argue which of the three finalists in each categories deserves the Prize. Not that I’m expecting any sympathy here it is after all America’s best book club, but it is not a small lift. So let me focus just a bit on the person that this particular conference is all about. For the first decade the Pulitzer Prizes were awarded the board declared the winning novel must quote depict American life. But after Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey won the prize despite it’s Peruvian setting, the board members broadened the definition. After 1928, the winner simply would be quote the best novel published that year by an American author. The category by the way is now called fiction and the award is given for quote “distinguished fiction by an American author preferably dealing with American life.” Anyway the first books to benefit from the 1928 shift came along four years later. In 1932, s+Sei Jin Zu also known as Pearl S. Buck won the Nobel Prize for The Good Earth. Toni Morrison who won the 1988 fiction prize for The Beloved praised the book adding wryly that Buck quote ‘misled me and made me feel that all writers were sympathetically, empathetically, honestly, and forthrightly about other cultures. The Good Earth was the unanimous first choice of the Pulitzer jury which in 1932 consisted of jurors Jefferson B Fletcher of Columbia University, Robert M Lovett of the New Republic, and Albert’s B Pain. In a January 26, 1932 letter, the novel jury Frank Fecenthal who was the secretary of the Pulitzer Prize Advisory Board ask the jurors to make no reference to the juries disagreements if any in their report to the board. He asked them to simply list the books in the order of the jury’s choice without indicating the ins and outs of the vote. In its report, and we have a copy of it for you no Becca I’m sorry we have a copy of it for you there the room the jury conceded that it had favorably considered also Shadow On the Rock by Willa Cather and The Lady Who Came to Stay by R.E. Spencer noting quote, “Its a rare year when three such excellent novels appear.” Preference was given to The Good Earth quote for its epic sweep, its distinct and moving characterizations, its sustained story interest, its simple and yet richly colored style. Now I wasn’t on the board in, The Pulitzer Board in 1932 to review The Good Earth but I’ve been on the board now for eight years, since 2008, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the distinct privilege of reading some of the best of American literature. I expected to joy enjoy the journalism categories after all that’s what I’m most familiar with what I’ve dedicated some 36 years of my life to and I do enjoy the journalism. Personal favorites of course are the editorial writing category, my column writing category, but I’ll also never forget the groundbreaking journalism and frankly the very robust board discussion that resulted in awarding the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service known as the gold medal to two organizations for their pursuit in very different ways of the Edward Snowden Story. The Guardian U.S. won both of them one for their revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency but listen to the distinction, The Guardian U.S. won also for helping through aggressive recording to spark a debate about the relationship between government and the public over issues of security and privacy. The Washington Post also for revelation of widespread secret surveillance by National Security Council but marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security. And I have to tell you that few reports can be more significant than The Associated Press’s investigation last year of severe labor abuses tied to the supply of seafood to American supermarkets and restaurants reporting that freed 2,000 slaves brought perpetrators to justice and inspired industry reforms. That package of stories one the 2016 gold medal for public service. But I must confess I especially enjoy the books and drama categories. Maybe it’s because I don’t do books in drama in my real life. The books in drama provides for me another way of learning about the world around us of telling stories of discovering truth. Perhaps this should come as no surprise as a child one of my favorite fantasies was to be left alone in a library so I could read the book from A to Z and of course my first professional aspiration was to write the Great American Novel. I confess however that one book I did not expect to like came along the second year I was on the board it was about a bunch of bankers in the last century I saw the title and the book jacket and I thought I’m not really into monetary policy this is going to be quite a slog. Boy, was I wrong if you’ve not read the Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed you should. It’s an unusually compelling account of how four powerful bankers around the world played crucial roles and triggering the Great Depression and World War two and ultimately transformed the United States into the world’s financial leader. Liaquat Ahamed by the way was a first time book writer. He won the Pulitzer in 2010 for history. Makes you want to say what have you done for me lately? In 2013 that was a blockbuster year for me on the board. The history award that year went to Frederick Loejeva’s for Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire in the Making of America’s Vietnam. It’s a balanced deeply researched history of how as French colonial rule faltered in succession of American leaders move step by step down the road towards full-blown war. The biography award that year went to Tom Rice for the Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. This is a compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold exploits were captured by his son Alexander Dumas in the famous 19th century novels. I think this book should be a movie. The non-fiction prize that same year went to Gilbert King for Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall and the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America. It’s a richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Roland in 1949 involving four falsely accused black men of rape and throwing us and drawing a civil rights Crusader and eventual Supreme Court justice into the legal battle. This one’s actually being made into a movie as we speak. Both Groveland Boys and Black Counts teach more about history, race, and culture than any civics or seminar course around. In my opinion they should be required reading in every high school in America. And of course then there’s this year’s drama winner anybody know what that one would be? Anything come to mind? Have you heard of Hamilton? So Hamilton by Lynn-manuel Miranda it’s so rocked my world that a year later having seen it in the public theater I still really can’t get it out of my head. And there’s a confidential side note here, you have not lived until you’ve heard Ron Chernow who’s the author of the book on which the musical was based rap about his subject matter. He did a snippet of that at Lynn-manuel’s script at the Dallas marquee event on a panel we had featuring three Pulitzer Prize winning presidential biographers and it brought that house down. So in closing, I’m not going to rap for you about Hamilton but I will say thank you to each and every one of you involved in this forum. It has never ever been more important than it is right now to focus on the values of engagement, enlightenment, truth-telling, and inspiration. As we rocket toward what will be regardless of the outcome a historic election, each of us must do everything we can to lift up the best of American journalism, scholarship, and the arts. We must inspire new audiences around the importance of the humanities to our democracy. You’re doing your part by being here sponsoring and attending a conference on one of America’s literature’s greatest. Keep doing your part. Sometimes it’s hard but it’s important. I’m going to leave you with a thought from the off overlooked late great war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. I’ve had it hanging on a wall in my office for many years. “All of my reporting life I have thrown small pebbles into a very large pond and I have no way of knowing whether any pebbles caused the slightest ripple. I don’t need to worry about that my responsibility is the effort .” Thank You and God bless.

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