In this season of reflection and gratitude, we are so appreciative for Katie Couric’s and April Ryan’ thrilling and wide-ranging conversation at a Smithsonian Associates program last month. When Smithsonian Associates conferred the John P. McGovern Medal to journalist, author, producer and hometown girl Katie Couric (she grew up in Arlington, VA), we knew that the conversation that she and White House correspondent April Ryan would have at the Forum for Ideas would be electric. We didn’t expect it to be hilarious and inspirational. Smithsonian Associates proudly convenes thousands of conversations among brilliant thinkers every day. It is the intimacy of those dialogues that makes them special and we wish that we could always invite the world to listen in. Sometimes, just sometimes, we get to share them more broadly with people far beyond the classrooms and auditoriums on the National Mall. This is one of those rare occasions.
Katie and April talked about what it’s like to be a journalist recounting the first draft of history: what it felt like to watch as the twin towers fell on September 11, 2001 or how to maintain a professional demeanor while narrating the dramatic saga of the hanging chads after the 2000 election. And, during this conversation, Katie revealed how she really felt about donning ridiculous Halloween costumes for the TODAY show again, and again, and then again. These two longtime women journalists let us in on some of their shared daily challenges and joined the audience in applauding a young journalism student who stood up and thanked them before asking for advice about breaking into the business.
In celebrating Associates’ first decade, then Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, challenged the Smithsonian to ‘provide light rather than heat on pressing questions.’ We are honored to continue to meet that challenge and to invite guest speakers to share their opinions and knowledge on the National Mall.