Eugene Robinson uses his twice-weekly column in The Washington Post to pick American society apart and then put it back together again in unexpected and revelatory new ways. To do this job of demolition and reassembly, Robinson relies on a large and varied tool kit: energy, curiosity, elegant writing and the wide-ranging experience of a life that took him from childhood in the segregated South—on what they called the “colored” side of the tracks—to the heights of American Journalism. His remarkable story telling ability has won him wide acclaim, most notably as the winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for his commentary on the 2008 presidential race that resulted in the election of America’s first African-American president.
In a 25-year career at The Washington Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s award winning Style section. He has written books about race in Brazil and music in Cuba, covered a heavyweight championship fight, witnessed riots in Philadelphia and a murder trial in the deepest Amazon, sat with Presidents and Dictators and the Queen of England, thrusted and parried with hair-proud politicians from sea to shining sea, handicapped three editions of American Idol, acquired fluent Spanish and passable Portuguese and even reached an uneasy truce with the noxious hip-hop lyrics that fester in his teenage son’s innocent looking iPod.
He saw, long before the recent election divided the states into red and blue, that politics and culture are always intertwined. He sees how the great trends that are reshaping our society are also reshaping our neighborhoods, our families, ourselves. Immigration, for example, is far more than a tally of how many people moved from somewhere else to America. It’s also the story of a changing inner-city block that rises or sinks as newcomers arrive. It’s the story of how the grammar and syntax of a new hybrid language are forged in basketball or soccer games at the local playground. It’s the story of a woman, all but cloistered in her home country, who walks down a public street for the first time in her life without a veil. Or the story of a man, raised in society where machismo still rules, learning for the first time to regard his wife as a breadwinner, perhaps eventually as an equal.
Using the old-fashioned instincts and habits of a reporter, Robinson goes out and finds these stories. He sees them as the foundation that supports his provocative opinions—and as building blocks that can be used to assemble the larger narrative of today’s America.
Robinson was born and raised in Orangeburg, SC. He remembers the culminating years of the Civil Rights Movement—the “Orangeburg Massacre,” a 1968 incident in which police fired on students protesting a segregated bowling alley and killed three unarmed young men, took place within sight of his house just a few hundred yards away. He was educated at Orangeburg High School, where he was one of a handful of black students on the previously all white campus; and the University of Michigan, where during his senior year he was the first black student to be named co-editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper, The Michigan Daily.
He began his journalism career at The San Francisco Chronicle, where he was one of two reporters assigned to cover the trial of kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst which arguably set the pattern for all the saturation-coverage celebrity trials that have followed. F. Lee Bailey, at the time the most celebrated lawyer in America, was lead counsel for the defense. He lost the case, which taught Robinson a valuable lesson he has never forgotten: Reputation and performance are two different things.
Robinson joined The Washington Post in 1980 as city hall reporter, covering the first term of Washington’s larger-than-life mayor, Marion Barry. For the first time since Orangeburg, race became a dominant issue in Robinson’s life—as city hall reporter, he was the de facto emissary of a powerful white institution, The Washington Post, to an ambitious, race-conscious, black-run government of a majority-black city. There he learned another important lesson: man-in-the-middle is never a comfortable role, but sometimes it’s a necessary one.
Robinson became an assistant city editor in 1981, and in 1984 was promoted to city editor, in charge of the paper’s coverage of the District of Columbia. During the 1987-88 academic year, on leave from The Post, Robinson was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University. He began studying the Spanish language—he had always promised himself that if he ever had a year off he would learn Spanish, since that would be useful for any journalist in a nation where immigration from Latin America was already gathering steam. Study of the language quickly led to courses on Latin American literature, history and politics.
On his return to the paper he was named The Post’s South America correspondent, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a post he held from 1988-1992 (which let him cover the trial in Amazon and also research his first book, the one about Brazil, Coal to Cream: A Black Man’s Journey Beyond Color to and Affirmation of Race, published in 1999). For the subsequent two years, he was London bureau chief (affording him the opportunity to sit in one of the gilded state rooms of Buckingham Palace as Queen Elizabeth II committed the investiture of a new crop of Lewis and Frank Bruno, and then to lose the option of ever becoming a full-time sportswriter by turning his head to scan the crowd at the precise instant of the blow that laid poor Bruno out on the canvas). In February 1994, Robinson returned to Washington to become The Post’s foreign editor. That same year he was elected to the Council of Foreign Relations.
In January 1999, Robinson became an assistant managing editor of The Post in charge of the Style section—where he learned that hip-hop and American Idol are as relevant to people’s lives, in their way, as the “serious” news that gets reported on the front page. His appointment as associate editor and columnist took place January 1, 2005. Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards. His second book, Last Dance in Havana: The Final Days of Fidel and the Start of the New Cuban Revolution—an examination of contemporary Cuba, looking at the society through the vibrant music scene—was published in 2004. His latest book, Disintegration, was released in October 2010. In it, Robinson discusses the disintegration of the black community into four distinct sectors, making them ideologically and politically unreliable.
Robinson is a regular contributor to MSNBC. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife, Avis, and their two sons.
Rev. George Walker Smith, Founder, Catfish Club of San Diego
Reverend George Walker Smith, co-chair of Restoring Respect, has been breaking barriers in San Diego since 1963. He is a firm believer that a leader’s role is to, “move others to make changes that are necessary and right.” In 1963, Reverend Smith led a successful effort to change school board elections in San Diego to allow for more equitable representation. Prior to 1963, San Diego School Board Members were elected at large, which resulted in the underrepresentation of Southeastern San Diego and the African American and Latino communities. Reverend Smith and others formed the Citizens Study Committee of the Board of Education, which advocated for the shifting of election policy from at-large elections to a district-based election system. As the first District E representative, Reverend Smith’s election to the San Diego School Board made him the first African American to hold public office in San Diego. From 1963-1979, Reverend Smith served four terms on the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education and led the board seven times as president or vice-president. Reverend Smith also advocated for a change in the employment practices of the San Diego Unified School District. In a system in which many schools served student populations that were 75% or more African American and/or Latino, there were few African American and Latino teachers and no African American or Latino administrators. Reverend Smith campaigned for more inclusive staffing which led to the employment of almost 800 African American and Latino teachers by the end of Reverend Smith’s term. With the intervention of the United States Office of Education and the Superior Court, Reverend Smith was able to overcome board opposition and establish the Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment and Magnet programs to help eliminate racial imbalance in San Diego schools. On a national level, Reverend Smith served as president of the Council of Great City Schools in 1972 and president of the National School Board Association in 1976. He was a member of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, the White House Committee on Education and the Arts, the Appeal Board of the National Council for Teacher Accreditation, and the National Advisory Commission on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In 1989, Reverend Smith co-founded the Innovative Preschool Project, subsequently establishing the School of Success, now the McGill School of Success Kindergarten Charter. He also served in leadership roles on the California School Board Association, The Board of Trustees of San Diego Community College District, the California Junior College Association Committee on Student Personnel, and the Overseers Advisory Board of the University of California. Reverend George Walker Smith overcame intolerance and opposition to lead the way toward equal education opportunities for all students in San Diego County and beyond.
Constance M. Carroll, Ph.D.
Dr. Constance M. Carroll has had a distinguished career in higher education. In 2004, she was appointed Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, after eleven years of distinguished service as President of San Diego Mesa College. With a total enrollment of over 100,000 students, the district is the second largest community college district in California and ranks sixth in the nation. The district also provides education to over 45,000 service personnel at numerous military bases across the country.
Prior to coming to San Diego, Prior to her service as chancellor, Dr. Carroll was president of three community colleges: San Diego Mesa College, Saddleback College, and Indian Valley Colleges. She held administrative posts at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Maine, Portland-Gorham (now the University of Southern Maine).
Constance Carroll holds a B.A. degree in Humanities from Duquesne University; an M.A. in Classics (Ancient Greek and Latin) from the University of Pittsburgh; a Certificate of Proficiency in Hellenic Studies from Knubly University in Athens, Greece; and a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Pittsburgh, with a dissertation on Ancient Greek tragedy. She also attended the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management.
Constance Carroll’s professional history includes service on professional boards, numerous awards and publications. She has served on significant professional boards, including the American Council on Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the League for Innovation, and is a past chair of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Accreditation remains one of Dr. Carroll’s key interests.
Constance Carroll’s affiliations have also included: the Board of Directors of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC); the California Council for the Humanities (as Chair); the San Diego Opera Board of Directors; the San Diego Youth Services Board; the San Diego Urban League Board; the Super Bowl XXXVII Host Committee, the Advisory Board of Ms. Magazine, and other organizations. In 2007, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) presented to Dr. Carroll the national “Marie Y. Martin CEO Award.” In 1992, she was named “President of the Year” by the American Association of Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC). In 1998 and 2006, she was selected as one of San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch.” In 2004, Dr. Carroll was given a “Visionary” Award for Economic Opportunity by LEAD San Diego and, in 2006, was selected for the “Community Service Award” by the San Diego Labor Council.
Constance Carroll is a lector and Eucharistic minister at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, and she serves on the Finance Council of the Diocese of San Diego. Dr. Carroll is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Mary Lyons, Ph.D., President, University of San Diego
Mary E. Lyons, Ph.D. became the president of the University of San Diego in July 2003. During her extensive career in education, Dr. Lyons has enjoyed rich and varied experiences as a teacher, professor, and administrator. Before her present appointment, Dr. Lyons served as the president of the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Prior to this, she served as the president of the California Maritime Academy, a campus of the California State University in Vallejo, California. With this appointment, she was commissioned as a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Maritime Service. Previously, she was the Academic Dean and Professor of Rhetoric and Homiletics at the Franciscan School of Theology, Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, California.
A fifth generation Californian, Dr. Lyons spent her childhood traveling with her military family, living throughout the United States and in Eritrea, Africa. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sonoma State University; her Master of Arts degree in English from San Jose State University, and her Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley. During her twenty-five year career as a U.S. Naval Reserve Officer, she held a variety of assignments, including an active duty position teaching at the Naval Training Center in San Diego and two appointments as Commanding Officer of Naval Reserve units. She retired in 1996 as a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Dr. Lyons has been recognized for leadership and service by numerous associations, including the Educator Distinguished Service Award from the National Defense Transportation Association, the University of San Francisco Medallion for scholarly achievement and community service, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Sonoma State University, and the recipient of a Doctorate of Humane Letters from The College of New Rochelle.
Her publications and presentations touch on a variety of topics, drawing upon her expertise as a Rhetorician, an educator, and a community leader.
Among her current Board appointments are: Chair, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, Council of Presidents for the Association of Governing Boards, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, California Campus Compact, National Campus Compact, St. Joseph Health System, the San Diego Opera and University Club, Board of Governors.
Paula A. Cordeiro, Ph.D., Dean, USD's School of Leadership and Education Sciences
Paula A. Cordeiro is the Dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego. Previously Dr. Cordeiro was the Coordinator of the masters and doctoral programs in Educational Leadership at The University of Connecticut. Cordeiro is a former teacher, principal and school head in international schools in Venezuela and Spain. In 2007 Paula was appointed to the board of The James Irvine Foundation in San Francisco and also serves on the Education Advisory Board of the Stuart Foundation. In 2009 she was elected to the board of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE). Dr. Cordeiro is a past president of the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), and in 1998 was awarded a fellowship by the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management (FCCEAM). She is a former member of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, past President of the San Diego Council on Literacy, a founding member of the Academy of International School Heads, and a board member of the International Council for the Education of Teachers (ICET), and San Diego Grantmakers. In addition to numerous articles, Paula has published three books and is currently working on the fifth edition of her co-authored text (with William G. Cunningham): An Introduction to Educational Leadership: A Bridge to Improved Practice. Paula's research and teaching are in the areas of school leadership and global education.
Jeff Light, Editor UT San Diego
Jeff Light grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., where his father was editor of the local newspaper. He has worked as an editor, as a reporter and as a “hopper” – the person who throws the bundles of papers from the delivery trucks in the dead of night. He has worked with small papers whose paychecks could barely clear the local bank, and with big ones that paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to their owners in one decade, then went bankrupt the next. He believes that journalism is one of society’s greatest callings. That is to say, it is one of the best things a person can do with this life.
Martha Barnette, Co-host of Public Radio’s A Way With Words
Martha Barnette is co-host of the public-radio show A Way with Words, heard each week by listeners in more than 230 cities across North America, and around the world by podcast. The program is about words and how we use them — word and phrase origins, slang, regional dialects, grammar, writing well, books and reading, and that weird thing Grandma used to say.
Martha is a longtime journalist who’s passionate about language and lifelong learning. She’s a graduate of Vassar College with an A.B. in English. She did graduate work in classical languages at the University of Kentucky and studied Spanish in Costa Rica at the ILISA Language Institute.
Before coming to radio, Martha worked as a reporter for the Washington Post and an editorial writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal. She’s the author of three books on word origins: A Garden of Words, Ladyfingers & Nun’s Tummies: A Lighthearted Look at How Foods Got Their Names, and Dog Days & Dandelions.
Martha is often quoted in the news media about language topics.
A Kentucky native, she now lives in San Diego, where she performs with the improv comedy troupe “Outside the Lines.”
Martha joined A Way with Words in 2004. She is now president of Wayword, Inc., the small, educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit that produces and distributes the radio program. Find out more about A Way with Words at waywordradio.org.
State Senator Marty Block, 39th District
Senator Marty Block was elected in November 2012 to represent the 39th Senate District, which includes most of the City of San Diego north of SR-94, Coronado, Del Mar, and Solana Beach.
As a former dean and director and retired professor at San Diego State University (SDSU), Senator Block brings his consummate knowledge of education to the Legislature. Prior to his 26 years of experience at SDSU, he was a Director of Student Legal Services and a history teacher in Illinois. His extensive background as a respected community volunteer, educational advocate and experienced professional has earned Senator Block wide acclaim from all communities in his district. Prior to his election to the Senate, his community service roles included:
- Assemblymember to represent the 78th Assembly District
- President of the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees,
- President of the San Diego County Board of Education,
- Frequent service as a San Diego Superior Court Judge pro Tem,
- Commissioner on the San Diego County Commission on Children, Youth and Families,
- Member of the San Diego County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force,
- Statewide President of the California County Boards of Education,
- Statewide Co-Chair of California Community Colleges Underfunded District Caucus,
- Founding Chair and Director, National Higher Education Law and Policy Institute,
- Government Relations Chair of the San Diego Multiple Sclerosis Society,
- President of the American Jewish Committee, San Diego Chapter,
- Founding Chair of the San Diego Latino/Jewish Coalition, and
- Host of more than 50 public affairs television programs on San Diego's Learning Channel.
A five-time recipient of Outstanding Faculty Awards at SDSU, Senator Block was presented with a University Distinguished Service Award upon retirement. He was also honored for community service by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
In the California State Senate, Senator Block works tirelessly to represent his district and provides strong leadership for policy changes which benefit all Californians and improve our most critical services. His passion on education issues, both at the K-12 levels and collegiate levels shows a strong regard for those who have little or no voice in the political process. He utilizes this same results-oriented approach to state government that served him so well in his prior roles.
In addition to improving education, his other legislative priorities include protecting public safety, providing jobs and economic development, seeking fiscal accountability and ensuring that everyone in the district has access to affordable, quality healthcare. While he was serving in the Assembly, he worked towards these goals through his committee assignments: Accountability and Administrative Review; Governmental Organization; Jobs, Economic Development & The Economy; and Veteran's Affairs.
Senator Block earned his B.A. in Political Science and Education from Indiana University, and his J.D. from DePaul University. He has lived in the 78th District for 30 years, and currently resides in the College Area community.
Marìa Nieto Senour, Ph.D., Professor of Pyschology, San Diego State University
Dr. Marìa Nieto Senour is a member of the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees, the first Latina elected to a city-wide school or college board office in San Diego. She was first elected in 1990 and re-elected in 1994, 1998 and 2002. In that position, and in the community work she has done, Marìa has been an advocate for children and for increasing staff and student diversity in education.
Marìa also served as the 2002 chair of the San Diego Convention Center board of directors. Her selection came after her unanimous appointment by the San Diego Mayor and the San Diego City Council to serve an unprecedented third term on the Corporation board to which she was first appointed in 1996. In her role as chair, Senour led a nine-member board that sets policy allowing the Corporation to achieve its goal of bringing economic growth and development to the San Diego region.
A former elementary school teacher and counselor, she is currently a full professor in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology at San Diego State University where she teaches in and directs the Community Based Block (CBB) program. The CBB specializes in preparing counselors from diverse ethnic groups to be multicultural specialists and over the last 32 years has graduated more people of color with masters' degrees in counseling than any program in the state. Marìa was named Professor of the year by San Diego State in 1993.
Marìa was born in San Antonio, Texas. She comes from a long line of Texans on her father's side. Her mother's parents were from Chihuahua, Mexico. Marìa's father, Pedro Nieto, received a third grade education, her mother, Josefina Galindo Nieto, completed the eighth grade but that did not diminish their goals and expectations for their children. Her brother, Pedro, is an attorney in Uvalde, Texas, her brother, Jesus, is a professor at San Diego State University, her sister, Andrea Rebecca, is a businesswoman in San Antonio.
When Marìa was 14 her family moved to Detroit, Michigan where, after attending three different Catholic schools, she graduated from high school. She received her bachelor's degree from Marygrove College in Detroit, her master's degree from the University of Toledo in Ohio and her Ph.D. from Wayne State University. She was an elementary school teacher and a junior high school counselor in Michigan. She was an elementary school counselor in Redlands, California, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, a visiting professor at the University of Redlands and she founded the counselor education program at California State University, San Bernardino before assuming a position at San Diego State in 1977.
Marìa has written several professional articles and chapters and has presented at numerous conferences on such topics as Loss and Grief; Working with Mexican American Students and Parents; Gender Roles and Ethnicity; and Do You Really Need a Boyfriend? She has done extensive volunteer work in the community. She is a past Board member of LEAD, San Diego, has served as a consultant on race relations to the San Diego Housing Commission, a trainer to numerous departments of probation across the state of California on how to work with Latino offenders, and a consultant to various educational and community organizations on women's, cross-cultural and Latino issues. She serves as a facilitator with Viewpoint Learning, an organization that conducts day-long dialogues with citizens on controversial issues and important topics related to the future of the region.
Marìa has carried her family's educational tradition to her two children. Andrea, 34, a graduate of UC Berkeley, studied Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico upon graduation. Jon Carlos, 32, also graduated from Cal and studied Spanish in Guanajuato, Mexico. Denny Ollerman, Marìa's husband, is a retired private practice psychologist. Her parents returned to San Antonio on their retirement where her mother completed her G.E.D. in 1994 and took community college classes.
Virginia Cha, 10News Anchor
Virginia Cha brings years of extensive experience in both national and local news coverage to the 10News team.
Virginia most recently worked as an anchor at CNN/HLN and CNN.comLIVE, based at the world headquarters in Atlanta. During her tenure there, she brought viewers news about everything from Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 elections, to the death of Michael Jackson and the takedown of Osama bin Laden.
Prior to that, as a network correspondent for NBC News based in New York, Virginia was out front on unforgettable stories including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She was at ground zero when the North Tower collapsed and continued to report on the emotional recovery efforts from there in the ensuing weeks. Virginia was also on the scene in Florida during the hotly contested "hanging chad" presidential election. Virginia has covered many breaking news stories from earthquake devastation in El Salvador to the return of the China Spy Plane crew to the miraculous Quecreek Mine rescue. Virginia's reports appeared on Nightly News, MSNBC, the Today Show and Weekend Today, where she also filled in on the anchor desk. She has interviewed everyone from government leaders including President Bill Clinton and Sen. Ted Kennedy, to newsmakers such as Walter Cronkite, Stephen Hawking, Spike Lee and Michael Lewis.
As a news anchor in Boston and Hartford, where Virginia began her on-air career, she earned numerous local and regional awards, including multiple Emmy awards for anchoring and an Edward R. Murrow award for team political coverage. Her experience spans a variety of formats from traditional anchoring to live shows from the field to a morning news program to in-depth medical reporting.
Virginia has been involved with a number of charity organizations, including Rosie's Place, Boys and Girls Club and First Night Boston.
Virginia graduated from Princeton University and is a Fulbright Scholar.
Follow Virginia's Twitter account @10NewsCha by visiting http://twitter.com/10NewsCha.
Carl Luna, Ph.D.
Carl Luna is a professor of political science at San Diego Mesa College and lectures on politics at the University of San Diego. In 1999-2000 he was a senior Fulbright Scholar lecturing on American Politics and international political economy at Nizhni Novgorod State University in the Russian Federation. In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Luna is a frequent commentator on politics for local, national and international media, including public radio and television, the CBS Morning Show and Evening News, NBC’s Today Show, the BBC, the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Dr. Luna is a frequent contributor to the Op-Ed pages of the San Diego Union Tribune and wrote the UT’s first political weblog from 2003-2007. He has also been a columnist for San Diego City Beat Magazine which hosted his blog, “Political Lunacy.” He is a contributing author to the anthology of presidential biographies, Public Pillars, Private Lives and a revised volume on the presidency: Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama. He also wrote Motherland, a novel of Russian political intrigue. Dr. Luna is co-chair of Restoring Respect, a community initiative promoting greater civility in San Diego civic dialogue. supported by a consortium of San Diego area academic institutions and community groups including the Catfish Club of San Diego, the San Diego Community College District and the University of San Diego. As a minor footnote to history, a brief written by Dr. Luna formed the closing argument presented to the United States Senate by Presidential Counsel Greg Craig in the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton.