By Stella Galli
ICON 2020 was kicked off with loads of inspiration, hope, and motivation. Jon Meacham, a writer for George H.W. Bush and presidential biographer, was the first keynote speaker. As someone who aspires to work on political campaigns and speech writing for politicians one day, his non-partisan perspective is something I believe everyone should hear and grasp on to. After all, his 45 minute speech truly changed my perspective to a more positive light on the current state of our country.
It’s 2020, and let’s face it, most of us have not seen such a hectic year. We have undergone a pandemic, televised police brutality, and many people are losing hope in the state of the union.. Jon Meacham, however, exclaimed that hope has never been stronger in this country. He urged the audience to think deeply about how, while the nation may feel more divided than ever – that we the people are the ones who can unite the nation. This made me ponder the question, how can we all talk in a non-divisive way? Because how we act and what we think has a discernible public effect, whether we like it or not. Time and time again, I feel that everyone is in a constant state of blaming the other side of the political spectrum for issues, rather than using core facts to argue the roots of the issues. We see this everywhere on social media – just take a look at your Instagram stories and Twitter feed. We are not getting the full picture, rather we are engaging our own selective exposure (which I am sure we all remember from Professor Mortenson’s class). What we are viewing and what we are seeing all affect what we say, and how we act. I took Jon Meacham’s words, to be hopeful and unite the nation, as something we can all work harder on. To educate ourselves on what others think, to challenge ourselves to stop blaming the other side, and maybe just maybe, we can be more united.
Jon Meacham further inspired the audience by emphasizing how public relations can truly change the world. As aspiring PR professionals, we have the power to influence millions of people and draw attention to things that we care about. As students, while sometimes one may feel powerless, Jon allowed me to remind myself that I can use the power of my own perspectives to make the world a better place. He stated, “When the voices of the powerless capture the attention of the powerful, things will get done.” That is why people such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Jon Lewis are so important to our nation and our history: they used their voice to influence millions. They started revolutions for the people. They understood that we are all in this together, and when we all stand together to make our voices heard, improvements will be made.
Jon Meacham spoke at ICON 2020 for 45 minutes, and within that time, we received incredibly important life lessons. We learned to be hopeful in times of crisis because we are the solution, and that when we use our voices to speak up, we can bring people together to start something larger than ourselves. I am grateful that joining PRSSA has given me the opportunity to hear from Jon as well as other amazing keynote speakers – they are inspiring us to be the PR professionals that we are well on our way to becoming.