The Wall Street Journal called Bob Woodward "the most celebrated journalist of our age." The CBS News said, "Woodward has established himself as the best reporter of our time." Ben Bradlee, his former editor at The Washington Post, in his memoir, "A Good Life," wrote: "Woodward is surely the best of his generation at investigative reporting, the best I've ever seen."
Woodward, who since his pivotal role in uncovering and reporting on the Watergate scandal has authored or coauthored 16 non-fiction books, all of them national bestsellers, was in town to give a talk at the College of William and Mary.
He gave the lecture in conjunction with the launching of his latest book, "The Prize of Politics." his 17th, which focuses on how top-level political leaders from both parties tried to restore the country's economy.
A summary issued by Amazon states that the book is based on 18 months of reporting on how President Obama and Republican as well as Democratic leaders in Congress attempted to restore the American economy and improve the federal government's fiscal conditions. Woodward's book tells why they failed.
After his reporting on Watergate and attaining worldwide recognition, Woodward remained working at the Post. He was the lead reporter for the coverage of the 9/11 attack in 2001. The stories won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Serving now as an associate editor, he has been a recipient of almost all the major American journalism awards.
In his talk at William & Mary that attracted almost 1,000 students, faculty and local residents, Woodward, reflected on the role the free press plays in upholding our system of democratic governance. He sprinkled his speech with poignant stories about his encounters with former vice president Al Gore, Henry Kissinger, President George W. Bush, President Obama, and many others.
He also polled the audience about whom they will vote for in the presidential election. The mostly student audience indicated by 9-t0-1 margin they would vote for Obama.
In an interview with the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette, Woodward, who has became a role model for aspiring journalists, pointed out, he still considers journalism, "The best job there is. Because what they do is interesting and their work has an impact. My advice to aspiring journalist is, go for it. Take risk, but make sure you can trust your sources, confirm, have notes and documents that will back you up."
Responding to a question whether he agrees with the views of the respected French philosopher, Jacques Barzun, who postulated the decline of the West, Woodward said: "No, I disagree. We are in trouble, and in difficult times, but I don't think it signals the decline of the West. I am optimistic that resilience and capacity for entrepreneurship in all professions is so great that it makes me bullish on the United States."
He acknowledged that the currently prevailing partisanship in our political landscape has a paralyzing effect. "Yes," he said, "there is political paralysis in Washington. But all changes come from crises."
In his talk, Woodward recalled a conversation he had with Katharina Graham, the publisher of the Post, while the Watergate scandal was unraveling. Graham, who followed closely the investigative reporting of the Woodward and CarlBernstein, asked him, when would the whole truth about Watergate be known? "There is so much, cover-up, maybe never." Woodward replied.
"Never say, never," Graham said to him. This axiom, Woodward told his audience, applies at all spheres of our national life. And the job of journalists is to report what is going on.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.