Title

Olafson Ethics Symposium 2017

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date

11-27-2017

Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration

Abstract

National Public Radio political correspondent Mara Liasson was the keynote speaker of the 13th Olafson Ethics Symposium, hosted by the College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA) and sponsored by alumnus Bob Olafson and SEI Investments. Olafson established the series to foster student and community discussions of professional and personal ethics. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today

As a national political correspondent for NPR, Mara Liasson unbiasedly covered every presidential election from Clinton to Obama. She dug into administration and policy as a White House and congressional reporter. Now, you can hear her provocative take on all things politics on “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” and as a Fox News contributor.

But Tuesday evening, before more than 450 people packing the University of North Dakota’s Memorial Union, Liasson felt a sense of reprieve.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to take a break from my regularly scheduled programming, when, depending on what day it is, I’m not sure if I’m covering ‘House of Cards,’ ‘The West Wing,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ or ‘King Lear,’” Liasson said to the laughter of those filling the ballroom.

Liasson was the keynote speaker of the 13 th Olafson Ethics Symposium, hosted by the College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA) and sponsored by alumnus Bob Olafson and SEI Investments. Olafson established the series to foster student and community discussions of professional and personal ethics.

As conversations over “fake news” bubble across the nation, Liasson offered her no-nonsense view on the state of ethical standards and civic virtue. She noted that in the current political environment, American ideals are becoming more divided as ethical norms are stretched.

“All of our democratic institutions right now are undergoing a kind of stress test, and all of things that are supposed to bind us together and make it possible to find common ground are under tremendous pressure,” she said.

These stress tests – driven primarily, Liasson said, by what she sees as the divisive commentary of President Donald Trump – are disturbing the judiciary and congressional branches of our government. But the media has been the most visibly afflicted.

“There are direct attacks on the mainstream press as ‘fake news.’ We’ve heard the President threaten to get rid of the license of NBC because he didn’t like what they were reporting,” Liasson said, offering further examples of intimidation. She posed that the assaults have a strategy behind them – to crack the credibility of “unkind” coverage – and the strategy is working.

“The corrosion of support for First Amendment principles did not start with Donald Trump – he just accelerated it,” she said.

More than 450 people packed the University of North Dakota’s Memorial Union Ballroom to hear NPR’s Mara Liasson speak on Tueday, Nov.7. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

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