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The school reopened its newly renovated home as part of the star-studded gala celebration. They came from as close as Walnut Street and as far away as Moscow and Hong Kong. But the several hundred Annenberg alumni, graduate students, undergraduate Communications majors, faculty, staff and officials who attended yesterday's Annenberg School for Communication 40th anniversary celebration were greeted with a day-long series of events which drew prominent figures in politics and communications to the school that apparently would make the trip back to West Philadelphia worth the jet lag. The celebration -- which featured speeches by New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam -- also marked the completion of a two-year, $15 million renovation project to the school's Walnut Street home and the 48th wedding anniversary of University Trustees Walter and Leonore Annenberg, the school's main benefactors. Officials held a building dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. to celebrate the completion of renovations, during which older sections of the building were renovated and the Annenberg School Theater was closed to make way for the new home of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Speaking during the ceremony, University President Judith Rodin cited the ignorance of many Americans on public policy and political issues as a necessary reason for the Public Policy Center's place within the school. "It is essential that there be a place where? people can examine public issues from a historic perspective, from a political and sociological point of view," Rodin said. "It is no surprise that every time there is a big story in the media with political implications, it is the faculty of the Annenberg School who are called for comment." The ceremony -- which was held in the courtyard at the building's renovated front entrance on Walnut Street -- was broadcast via simulcast to an audience inside the Zellerbach Theatre as a means of displaying the school's new teleconferencing link that will connect the school with the Annenberg Public Policy Center's other branch in Washington, D.C. "By incorporating the Annenberg Public Policy Center into the core of the Annenberg School we ensure that in perpetuity the educational mission of the school will stay at the core of the Public Policy Center and that it will not become some kind of separate entity," Annenberg Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson said. And Provost Robert Barchi spoke of the Annenbergs' vision for the school when they founded it in 1959, saying that the school has and will continue to meet that vision. "In accordance with Ambassador Annenberg's vision, the Annenberg School educates students and conducts research in the uses of communication both to improve society and to realize the highest ideals of citizenship," Barchi said. Officials also heralded the opening of the Institute for Public Service, a new part of the Public Policy Center, and the Presidential Campaign Archive, which compiles for study rhetoric from every presidential campaign since 1952. During the morning's festivities, Whitman outlined the need for effective communication in today's political environment. She stressed the importance of "developing a good public policy and coupling it with a good communications strategy" to pass effective legislation. And Brokaw, who spoke at midday as part of a closed luncheon program, shared with the audience both the advancements and the shortcomings of broadcast journalism he has witnessed in his over 30 years in the business. Brokaw said that as he saw the broadcast world take a greater interest in health and science issues and the arts, he also watched news programs "mis- or under-represent what was going on in the rest of the world." "It was then in short a great national asset but also an imperfect profession," Brokaw said. Brokaw also spoke on the rise of the integration of communications and public policy in institutions like Annenberg, calling the school "a national treasure." And Rendell, making his first visit to campus since being named head of the Democratic National Committee, took the stage after Brokaw to express his admiration for the Annenbergs and the school. He also gave his opinion -- from a politician's perspective -- that "the press has a long way to go" towards becoming a respectable profession. Halberstam took the stage to deliver the evening keynote address in Zellerbach. Like Brokaw, Halberstam looked back over his years as a journalist, but with less optimism and more criticism than the television news anchor. "There is a deeper malaise in journalism today than there ever were when I entered the profession over 40 years ago," Halberstam said. In particular, the critically acclaimed author criticized the loss of values in television journalism as well as the shift toward sensationalism and reporting only those stories that are "sexy." But Halberstam did offer a ray of hope in his cynical but humorous talk, saying that today's schools are "turning out more bright young people than ever before." Attendees passed the afternoon by taking tours of the renovated building and participating in panel sessions moderated by Annenberg faculty. One panel session, entitled "Presidential Election Campaigns: Past and Future," was moderated by David Eisenhower, an Annenberg faculty member and grandson of the former president. It included as panelists Stephen Hess, the head of the Brookings Institute and one-time speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower, and Michael Waldman, the recently departed head speechwriter for President Clinton. Jamieson said last night that she was very pleased with the successes of the day's events. "The panels have gone well. The speakers have been wonderful," Jamieson said, adding that she was pleased with the amount of interaction between guests, faculty members and speakers.

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