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David Gregory Talks Politics, Journalism, and Faith

Friday, February 26, 2016

The veteran political reporter visited Tufts University as part of the Tisch College Distinguished Speaker Series.

David Gregory

On February 18, Tisch College kicked off the Spring lineup of our Distinguished Speaker Series by hosting David Gregory, former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press and author of How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey. Gregory’s visit, which included an afternoon roundtable with a group of select Tufts students and faculty, followed by a public talk attended by more than 90 members of the University community, was cosponsored by the Tufts Film and Media Studies Program and by Tufts Hillel.

In conversation with Tisch College Dean Alan D. Solomont, Gregory offered compelling commentary about politics, faith, journalism, and the connections among all three.

Introduced by Dean Solomont as “one of our nation’s most experienced political reporters,” Gregory wasted no time sharing his thoughts on the current electoral process. He described every election as a snapshot of where the country is, and a reflection of where it wants to go, before arguing that something unprecedented is happening in 2016.

“I think this is unique because of the depth of the anger and the anxiety, and a kind of brokenness both in the political system but also in government,” said Gregory about the presidential race. “I think there is, for a lot of people in America, a sense that the country is moving in this direction, inexorably in a certain way. And where are they? Are they being left behind?”

Gregory shared additional insights gleaned from a 25-year career in journalism that included covering the trials of O.J. Simpson and Timothy McVeigh, anchoring election-night coverage during four presidential cycles, and serving as NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent during the entire Presidency of George W. Bush, who inspired the title of Gregory’s book when he once asked him “How’s your faith?”

The veteran reporter also touched on his six years as moderator of Meet the Press, the nation’s preeminent political talk show. And he spoke candidly about his tumultuous exit from one of the most prestigious positions in American journalism.

“I really struggled with the idea of ‘well, if I’m not this guy who’s on television then do I matter? Do I have standing? Does anyone really care about me and what I have to say?” said Gregory. “I was so ambitious and I was on a path since I was 18 years old: I engineered myself to be what I became. But in the process, I think my identity became too much about that, as is so often the case. So losing that was a tremendous blow.”

Later, in response to a question about what advice he would give young people are increasingly less likely to undergo spiritual journeys on their own, Gregory offered a possible inoculation for what eventually plagued him—one he encouraged all young people to practice regardless of their religious beliefs.

“One of the things I wish I had done more of in these years, even if it wouldn’t have been digging more deeply into my faith, is to try to quiet the self inside of me. To try to channel ambition in a way that was not purely about my own aggrandizement,” he said. “The quieting of the self leads you to a path of more compassion, more mercy, more toward being a better version of yourself.