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Dionne examines politics, journalism, religion

Politics, journalism and religion were the focus of a lecture by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., held Wednesday evening, May 8, in Clayton Hall. Dionne was the final speaker in the Global Agenda series on “Understanding International Terrorism Today,” which drew large audiences throughout the spring semester.

After opening his lecture with a few short and humorous stories, Dionne recounted his experiences working in Washington, D.C., as a political “liberal, who is skeptical of human nature” and as a foreign correspondent turned biweekly columnist for the Post. Currently, his column appears in 90 newspapers.

“Politics, at least for the moment, has turned some kind of corner,” Dionne said, as he attempted to explain the difficulty in divining the future in an unpredictable arena such as domestic politics. The country continues to enjoy newfound solidarity in the wake of the events of Sept.11 but that may only be temporary. “The divisions between the center left and the center right are too deep for bipartisanship to endure,” he said.

Due to the current camaraderie between the political parties, Dionne predicted that the 2002 and 2004 gubernatorial and presidential campaigns will be “extremely nasty” as candidates struggle to win close races.

In the latter portion of his speech, Dionne described the power of religious fanaticism and the notion that it can inspire a person to sacrifice his or her own life and the lives of others. Ironically, after the attacks, large numbers of Americans sought out churches, mosques and synagogues to help them through the time of need, he pointed out.

“Religion,” he said, “has always been used and misused.”

The lecture was followed with a question-and-answer period that focused on an array of topics, including journalism ethics and foreign affairs coverage in the media.

Prior to joining The Washington Post, Dionne spent 14 years with The New York Times. He covered state and local government and national politics before being assigned to Paris, Rome and Beirut to report on international events.

In May 1996, Dionne joined the Brookings Institution as a senior fellow in the Governmental Studies Program.

Videos of previous speeches in the Global Agenda series can be found online at www.udel.edu/global. Dionne’s speech will be added to the web site in the near future and will be accessible at the same address.

The 2002 Global Agenda series was made possible with support of the World Affairs Council of Wilmington, as well as the University’s College of Arts and Science.

Article by Erin O’Leary

Photo by Duane Perry

May 9, 2002