The College’s Distinguished Chair in Journalism and Public Policy held court across campus in a whirlwind week of interviews and workshops.
In his first official week as the College’s new journalism professor and Distinguished Chair in Journalism and Public Policy, Dr. Marvin Olasky treated the campus to a stimulating array of personalized events and appearances, highlighted by a weeklong interview series with prominent lawmakers, policymakers and authors. It all took place in the stylish intimacy of the Barbara Hodel Center Coffee house, and by week’s end, the roster of newsmakers included U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), Sagamore Institute President Jay Hein, Christian author Ann Voskamp, and Baylor history professor Thomas Kidd.
What was billed as WORLD Magazine Week at Patrick Henry College drew students, faculty, staff, and visitors from the local community to the Hodel Center’s café tables and booths, as they listened intently and joined in stirring discussions about everything from the state of the union to challenges confronting homeschooling moms?
While on campus, Olasky also shared his testimony in a fascinating and humorous chapel message detailing chapters of his early life and journalistic career, when he was a practicing atheist and Communist. Each day saw him holding court at points across campus, teaching journalism classes, sharing post-interview luncheons with distinguished guests and students and filming tutorials for upcoming distance learning classes. He and his wife, Susan, a writer and editor for WORLD Magazine and assistant professor of public policy at PHC, also met with and mentored a half-dozen student interns who will be writing for WORLD and its various online editions.
“I think it went very well,” Olasky said of the week-long schedule. “We had excellent guests, and the students’ questions were powerful and astute. The students, in particular, impressed me greatly, and I think the interviewees went away with a very positive sense about the College.”
The inviting setting seemed designed for good conversation and proved especially fitting for Wednesday’s interview with soft-spoken Christian author Ann Voskamp, who wrote One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Querying the author about her creative process while writing One Thousand Gifts, Olasky asked, “So the book some times feels as if you’re preaching to yourself?”
“Exactly, Marvin,” Voskamp replied, speaking barely above a whisper. “I actually preach the Gospel to the person who needs to hear it the most: me. We need to hear the truth of the Gospel over and over and over again. I am chief among sinners. I need the truth of God’s word, and to encounter afresh the grace of Jesus Christ. It is reaching back to me, Marvin.”
Each interview will ultimately appear as a Q&A article in WORLD Magazine and, true to his style, will feature Olasky questions delving not merely into policy analysis or historical fact, but which go deeper into the sometimes personal details of a guest’s background. Exploring these lesser-known chapters of interviewees’ non-public moments demonstrated Olasky’s penchant for research, and often surprised the guests themselves, as when he mentioned the name of a childhood teacher of Arizona Congressman Trent Franks.
A startled, albeit smiling, Franks replied: “I do not know where you got these names and I am going to find out afterward.” As it turns out, PHC journalism student Cody Holt assisted Dr. Olasky’s research and helped draft many of the week’s questions.
“Cody was a great help and came up with some good details,” noted Olasky.
The penetrating interview style is, for Olasky, a studied, measured technique, particularly when addressing prominent politicians and public figures. There is, he says, an explicit agenda behind his meticulous preparation that allows him to tap his subjects’ idiosyncratic, rather than strictly official, personas.
“Typically, the pattern of my interviews at the beginning is to have interviewees go through some of their past, particularly when they were students and first began to discern what their calling might be,” he explained. “I think it’s important, especially for students, to see world leaders as real live human beings and not just brains on a stick. I want them (subjects) to share about how they first arrived on the road of their present positions, and what they went through while navigating the various turns in their careers. Hopefully, this draws out not just the relevancy of particular policy prescriptions and inside-Washington stuff, but illuminates some of the essences of real living and trying to understand the particular talents that God has given and of the best way to put them to use.
” Of the week’s whirlwind calendar of events, PHC Provost Dr. Gene Edward Veith, who is personal friends with the Olaskys, said the prospect of Dr. Olasky’s influence and presence is a boon for both the College and its students.
“To have so many prominent figures on campus,” he said, “from the arenas of politics, public policy, scholarship, and literature, and for our students to be able to not only listen to but also to interact with them, created the kind of stimulating atmosphere associated with the very best institutions of higher education.” Watch our website for news of upcoming Olasky events at PHC. To listen to audio or view video archives of these interviews, go to the PHC Newsmakers Media Page at www.phc.edu/newsmakers.