An Evening With Carl Bernsteinby Brie Stimson November 2, 2017
It all started in the smoke-filled newsrooms stacked end to end with paper-cluttered, coffee-stained desks. Carl Bernstein, a young, talented writer for the Washington Post, was assigned along with Bob Woodward to cover the Watergate break-in in 1972. While the break-in originally looked like a page eight or nine story, Woodward and Bernstein connected the burglars to the CIA, the White House and eventually Nixon himself. With their groundbreaking reporting, the two men ended a presidency, solidified their places in journalistic and political history and changed the way Americans trust their government.
More than 40 years later, Watergate nostalgia (maybe that’s no quite the right word) is running high and comparisons between then and now are everywhere you look.
And now The Lawrence Family JCC, which has educational programs year-round, is getting in on the conversation.
“We’ve had a successful film festival, a successful book fair here and we’re trying to raise the profile of our year-round programs,” Brian Garrick, the JCC festivals program director, told SDJJ over the phone. “So in that context somebody like Carl Bernstein made sense. We want to be a place that has community dialogue and community conversation, and Carl Bernstein is a person who has done that and has done that at the highest level in terms of national politics.”
Garrick agrees that current events are driving the renewed interest in the old scandal.
“Given Trump’s election, given the investigation into meddling in the election, given questions about the status of the presidency itself in this country, there’s nobody better to reflect on that than Carl Bernstein,” he explained. “He’s someone who has [a] strong Jewish background and comes from a strong Jewish place. In fact, I believe he was head of B’nai B’rith from BBYO when he was young and so [he’s] someone who espouses those values, but has his pulse on the national scene.”
Bernstein, who has never spoken at the JCC before, will talk to a packed audience on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) on the use and abuse of presidential power, specifically from Nixon to Trump. Garrick believes that despite the piqued interest in past scandals due to our present climate, that Bernstein is simply compelling on his own.
“This is somebody who changed the face of journalism and showed what the possibilities are for speaking truth to power,” Garrick told me. “That in combination with Trump’s election, I think, no matter who the president would be, I think people would be interested in hearing what Carl Bernstein had to say because of his role in history.”
Garrick, who said he will “unquestionably” be in the audience, explained that he wants to hear Bernstein reflect on how politics and journalism have changed from when he started to today. “We obviously have Twitter, news breaks a lot faster now than it ever did. So journalists have the capacity, given the changes in the business to do deep … investigative journalism, which is what he’s most known for with Watergate – so touching on that would be what I’m most looking forward to hearing from him.”
And maybe another young reporter from the Twitter generation will be inspired by the lecture to go out and become the next Carl Bernstein.
An Evening With Carl Bernstein: The Use and Abuse of Power: The Presidency From Nixon to Trump will be held at the David &Dorothea Garfield Theater at the Lawrence Family JCC on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. At press time tickets were sold out. Call the box office at 858-362-1348 to check.