Previous Park Distinguished Visitors

Park Distinguished Visitor David Brooks

David Brooks told the audience that the path of a journalist is a marathon, not a sprint.

(Photo by Carlie McClinsey)


David Brooks

David Brooks urged students to focus on the challenge of finding their post-college identity in an age of fast-paced media. Brooks, who in addition to being an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, is a prominent author and political commentator, detailed his professional journey following his graduation from the University of Chicago in 1983, and then turned his focus to candidly discussing challenges faced by today’s college students.

Brooks conveyed a speech that was very relevant and able to address challenges that students studying journalism and media might encounter. He described the life of a journalist as “a marathon rather than a sprint,” and added that aspiring journalists need to have the ability to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, rather than falling victim to the more focused and isolating world sometimes portrayed through social media.  

Ron Suskind

Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer-winning journalist and bestselling author screened his Oscar-nominated documentary “Life Animated,” and the following day gave a public presentation on the same topic. “Life Animated” tells the story of Suskind’s son, Owen, who lives with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). With the help of his passion for Disney animated films and the resilience of his family, Owen was able to learn about life, language, and emotion. After experiencing this breakthrough with his son, Ron Suskind was inspired to help others in similar situations. This led him to develop Sidekicks, a program that helps individuals with ASD utilize their passions to connect with others. Sidekicks makes use of augmentative technologies, which help individuals to communicate non-verbally.

Suskind, who was the Wall Street Journal’s senior national affairs reporter for seven years, won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. He is the author of a variety of books related to politics, economics, and the American government, including “Confidence Men” and “The Way of the World.” In addition to surving as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, Suskind is the director of the Project on Public Narrative, a fellowship program that focuses on discussing aspects of law, politics and society that are often overlooked.

Laila Ali

Laila Ali is a world-class athlete, fitness and wellness expert, TV host, entrepreneur, author, and advocate for women and children. The daughter of late beloved global icon and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, she is heralded as the most successful female in the history of women’s boxing. Her lecture also served as the keynote the school's Media for Social Responsibility course focusing on Portrayals of Disability and Chronic Illness in Popular Culture.

The Empowerment Project

What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? Emmy Award-Winning filmmakers Sarah Moshman and Dana Michelle Cook asked themselves before embarking on a 7,000 mile road trip across the US with a group of all female filmmakers. Tired of the lack of positive female role models in the media, Sarah and Dana felt inspired to make a change. The result is the documentary entitled The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things distributed by Seattle-based Indieflix. This screening and discussion was also a part of the Media for Social Responsibility course focused on Women Behind the Scenes.

Geena Davis

Academy Award winner Geena Davis is one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, appearing in several roles that became cultural landmarks. Davis broke ground in her portrayal of the first female President of the United States in ABC’s hit show Commander in Chief, earning the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama. She received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the offbeat dog trainer Muriel Pritchett in Lawrence Kasdan’s The Accidental Tourist. She was again nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance as Thelma in Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise, in which she co-starred with Susan Sarandon. Davis went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of baseball phenomenon Dottie Hinson in A League of Their Own. Her other credits include Tootsie, Beetlejuice, Earth Girls are Easy, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Stuart Little.

Davis is also recognized for her tireless advocacy of women and girls nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments. She is the founder of the non-profit the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and its programming arm See Jane, which engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters — and reduce gender stereotyping — in media made for children 11 and under.

Chad Hurley

Serving as a website, a brand, and a verb, YouTube is the world’s largest and most popular video sharing site and the third most visited site globally. At the genesis and development of this phenomenon is its cofounder and former CEO, Chad Hurley. Equal parts businessman and Silicon Valley maven, Hurley’s transition from working at PayPal to founding and growing YouTube has truly become the stuff of legend in business, technology, social, and educational circles around the world. In October 2007, Hurley (and his partner) sold YouTube to Google Inc. for $1.6 billion and still serves as the company’s advisor.

Soon after selling YouTube, Hurley cofounded AVOS Systems, which creates platforms and builds products that enable individuals to use their time more efficiently in their everyday lives.

Dan O’Shannon

Dan O’Shannon is an executive producer and writer of the hit show Modern Family. As a writer and producer, he has made significant contributions to some of the most acclaimed network comedies of the past 25 years such as Newhart, Cheers, and Frasier. O’Shannon has won three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series for his work on Modern Family and has received multiple Emmy nominations for Cheers and Frasier, including a win for Cheers. A Golden Globe winner, O’Shannon has also received numerous Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Producers Guild of America (PGA) awards, as well as one Academy Award nomination.

Randi Zuckerberg
Randi Zuckerberg ran marketing at Facebook for six years, where her team led the company’s U.S. election and international politics strategy, launched the live streaming industry with her media partnerships around the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011 for her innovative TV/online coverage of the 2010 mid-term elections. Randi has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Bloomberg, NDTV & World News, and was a correspondent for the 2011 Golden Globe Awards and the World Economic Forum in Davos.

In August 2011, Randi left Facebook to start her own media company.

James Carville
James "The Ragin' Cajun" Carville is America's best-known political consultant. In addition, he is also a best-selling author, actor, producer, talk-show host, speaker, restaurateur, and frequent contributor on CNN. Along with pollster Stanley Greenberg, Carville founded Democracy Corps, an independent, non-profit polling organization dedicated to making government more responsive to the American people.

Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of twelve books. She is also co-host of "Left, Right & Center," public radio's popular political roundtable program, and is a frequent guest on television shows such as Charlie Rose, Real Time with Bill Maher, Larry King Live, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show.

Tom Wolfe
Wolfe is recognized around the world as the preeminent social commentator of our time. Called the father of "new journalism," Wolfe is the author of twelve books, including the national best sellers The Right Stuff, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, and The Bonfire of the Vanities.

James Rubin and Christiane Amanpour

James P. Rubin served under President Clinton as assistant secretary of state for public affairs and as chief spokesman for the U.S. Department of State from 1997 to 2000. He was also a top policy adviser to secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright. From May 2000 to December 2007, Rubin lived in London, working as a broadcaster, professor, commentator, and communications consultant. He is currently an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

Christiane Amanpour is CNN's chief international correspondent, based in London. Amanpour has reported on crises from the world's many hotspots, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans, and, most recently, North Korea

Robert Fisk
Robert Fisk holds 28 British and foreign press awards, more than any other British journalist, including the six foreign correspondent of the year awards and two journalist of the year awards. He is one of the few journalists to have interviewed Osama Bin Laden.

He is currently the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper, the Independent. Fisk previously worked at the Times, a national daily newspaper in the United Kingdom, serving as the Middle East correspondent from 1976 to 1987 and as Ireland correspondent from 1972 to 1975.

Bill Moyers

During his long career in broadcast journalism, Bill Moyers was recognized as one of the unique voices of his generation.

During his thirty-plus years in the media, he has received more than 30 Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and two prestigious Gold Baton awards from the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, nine Peabody Awards, and three George Polk Awards, including the Career Achievement Award.

His several books include the following best sellers: Listening to America, The Power of Myth, Healing and the Mind; The Language of Life, and, most recently, Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times.

He is president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.

John Seely Brown

John Seely Brown is widely recognized for his unique views on the human contexts in which technologies operate and for his healthy skepticism about whether change always represents genuine progress. Brown was the chief scientist at the Xerox Corporation until April 2002 and director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) until June 2000.

Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson is an award-winning author, cultural critic, social analyst, Chicago Sun-Times columnist, radio commentator, ordained Baptist minister, and acclaimed scholar. He is the author of Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line, as well as books of cultural criticism about Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and rapper Tupac Shakur. He writes a monthly column for Savoy magazine, is a contributing editor at Christian Century, and is a regular contributor to Vibe magazine. He has received awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and the NAACP.

Pat Mitchell

Pat Mitchell is president and chief executive officer of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). She is the first woman and first producer to serve as CEO of the nation's largest and only noncommercial broadcasting service. A former network correspondent, independent producer, and Time Warner executive, Mitchell now oversees the operations of a $1 billion national enterprise made up of 346 member stations whose mission is to enrich the lives of all Americans and strengthen social capital in the communities they serve.

Ken Burns

Ken Burns has been making award-winning documentary films for more than 25 years. In 1981 he produced and directed the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge. He went on to make several other award-winning films. Burns was the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director, and executive producer of the landmark television series, The Civil War.

He was the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director, and executive producer of the PBS series, Baseball, covering the history of the sport from the 1840s to the present. Through the extensive use of archival photographs and newsreel footage, baseball as a mirror of our larger society was brought to the screen in September 1994. It became the most watched series in PBS history, attracting more than 45 million viewers. Baseball received numerous awards, including an Emmy, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the Clarion Award, and the Television Critics Award for outstanding achievement in sports and special programming.

Other Speakers:

* Carole Simpson, ABC News correspondent and anchor, World News Tonight Sunday
* Clarence Page, author, commentator, and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
* P.J. O'Rourke, best-selling author and leading political satirist
* Bob Brown, ABC News correspondent, 20/20
* Jeff Greenfield, CNN political analyst

Please note: Job titles and company associations listed above reflect the role each speaker had the year he/she served as the Park Distinguished Visitor.