President Barack Obama knows the media. As such, he was the honored guest at a gala to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Rice University’s Baker Institute, which is one of the most premier nonpartisan public policy think tanks in the country. Historian Jon Meacham moderated a conversation between the 44th president and former secretary of state under George H.W. Bush and the institute’s honorary chair, James Baker. The conversation was scintillating.
The three men spoke of their various experiences in office, U.S.’s leadership role in the world, and bipartisanship in-depth. Obama started off with an enthusiastic greeting, according to NPR:
‘It’s good to be back in Houston. Congratulations on the Texans’ victory yesterday. In 1981, your news cycle was still governed by the stories that were going to be filed by the AP, Washington Post, maybe New York Times, and the three broadcast stations. Whether people got their news from Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley, they tended to agree on a common set of facts. That set a baseline around which both parties had to adapt and respond to.’
The president said that as the media existed today, it was virtually impossible for people within the United States “to agree on a common set of facts.” Then, he proposed a thought-provoking idea. The Republicans and the Democrats live in “an entirely different reality” from one another.
The 44th president continued, pointing out how the media has shaped American thinking:
‘By the time I take office, what you increasingly have is a media environment in which, if you are a Fox News viewer, you have an entirely different reality than if you are a New York Times reader.’
The three men discussed topics as diverse as foreign policy and domestic partisan politics. President Obama told the crowd that he thinks the media is doing its part to contribute to the hostile political environment that now surrounds the country.
Then, the president spoke about how important it was for the people of the United States to go back to a time where civic conversation was based upon shared facts. He also noted that the U.S. must play an important role on the world stage as a leader of international diplomacy.
The president continued, saying that the world still follows America’s lead:
‘We have a stake in making sure that we have our act together enough. Because everybody else, whether they admit it or not, tends to follow our lead.’
Obama told the audience that the one thing he was proudest of was when the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) passed. In the midterm 2018 elections, healthcare was the number one issue for voters.
The 44th president added that another thing he was proud of was that he and his family survived eight years in the White House environment with their core values intact.
The president told the invitation-only crowd that in spite of the current negative political climate, our country still must play an important role in the world.
For any student who wanted to view the event live, the Baker Institute hosted a Student Center watch party.
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.