There was no love lost for President Donald Trump at the University’s 16th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in Social Justice on Monday night.
The event, an annual symposium held to commemorate the legacy of King, focused this year on analyzing the changes a Trump presidency could bring about in the United States and criticizing the actions the 10-day-old administration has already taken.
Introducing the lecture and setting the tone for the rest of the evening, Penn President Amy Gutmann condemned Trump’s executive order barring those from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, urging him to “rectify the horrible damage that this order has caused." Gutmann also appeared at a protest of the policy on College Green on Monday.
National MSNBC correspondent Joy-Ann Reid and New York Times columnist Charles Blow — both outspoken critics of Trump since before his inauguration — continued Gutmann's criticism of the new administration.
Blow described Trump as “a person who is not particularly literate, not very inquisitive, who chases conspiracy theories and believes them, who is a narcissist and a demagogue.”
The speakers focused on changes the media underwent during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reid said it's now an environment of “constant chaos,” in which a consistent inflow of new scandals and stories distracts journalists from stories they would rather cover.
The two also shared their thoughts about the ideal of objectivity in journalism.
Reid said she didn’t “one hundred percent believe in the idea of pure objectivity,” adding that “the objective school of journalism was practiced when lynchings were happening and being treated as just a thing that was going to happen.”
The speakers also discussed the future of journalism under Trump, whose administration Reid said “lies blatantly and luxuriously.”
“With an administration like this, access won’t help you,” she said. “What we need are people of good character who still work inside the system who will leak to us.”
She also said there was a different reaction to Trump’s election among black Americans than among other Americans.
“We’re not in shock anymore,” she said. “Black people have been in this country for enough years, we’re not shocked by racism.”
College senior Brooke Edwards said she liked that the speakers were “a little informal and very, very honest.”
“It was refreshing to get to hear from black journalists,” she said. “They were very self-aware, and reflective, and offered steps for what the media and the power of journalism can do during such an unprecedented presidency.”
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