Media Relations

Press Release:

MEDIA CONTACT: Polly Burks
561-297-2595, pburks@fau.edu

'First Lady of the Press' Helen Thomas to Speak at FAU

            BOCA RATON, FL (November 6, 2007) – Florida Atlantic University’s Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency presents a lecture with the legendary journalist and former United Press International (UPI) White House Bureau Chief Helen Thomas.   Drawing on 57 years of White House reporting, Thomas will deliver a hard-hitting analysis of the current state of affairs in Washington, the war in Iraq and the status of women in the political arena.  

            The lecture will take place on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 3:30 p.m. in the Carole and Barry Kaye Auditorium in the University Center on FAU’s Boca Raton campus, 777 Glades Road.   General admission tickets are $25 and may be obtained by calling 800-564-9539 or by visiting www.fauevents.com.   All students and teachers with ID may obtain free tickets at the Student Union Box Office on FAU’s Boca Raton campus.   Group discounts are available by calling 561-297-6124.  

            The most senior member of the White House press corps, Thomas has covered every president since John F. Kennedy.   She started at UPI where she wrote for their radio wire service.   Later, Thomas was moved to cover President-elect John F. Kennedy.   When Kennedy was elected, she became UPI’s White House correspondent, making her the first female journalist to cover the White House.   While in this role, Thomas earned the right to sit in the front row in the White House press room and was given the honor of the first question at press briefings.   During this time, she also started the tradition of ending every press conference with the line “Thank you, Mr. President.”  

            In 1972, Thomas was the only female journalist to accompany Richard Nixon on his ground-breaking trip to China.   Since then, she has traveled around the world with every sitting president.   Thomas served as White House bureau chief for UPI from 1974 until 2000, when she took a position with Hearst Newspapers where she works as White House columnist and correspondent.

            “Helen Thomas asks tough questions and speaks her mind,” said Kenneth Osgood, an associate professor of history and director of the Larkin Symposium.   “At a time when many journalists don’t do the tough reporting this country needs, Thomas is a breath of fresh air.   She has raised very important questions about the deteriorating quality of American journalism.   More controversially, Thomas also was one of the first and most prominent critics of the war in Iraq.   Her statements and questions have been provocative.   But they’ve gotten people talking and thinking.”

            Thomas was the first female officer of the National Press Club.   She was the first woman to be president of the White House Correspondents Association, and the first woman member of the Gridiron Club.   Thomas has received many awards and commendations, including being named one of the “25 Most Influential Women in America” by the World Almanac.

            “Thomas helped break the gender barrier in journalism,” said Osgood.   “With Hilary Clinton’s candidacy raising the real possibility of a woman president in 2009, Thomas’s insights on the role of women in politics couldn’t be more timely.”   

The lecture is part of the Alan B. Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency.   It was made possible by a generous endowment to the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters history department by the family of Alan Larkin, a magazine publisher who died in 2002. Larkin had a true passion for American history, particularly the presidency, and his family hopes the annual series will promote broader understanding of important issues related to the history of the executive branch of government.   Additional support for the symposium comes from the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council and the Palm Beach County Cultural Council.   For more information, visit www.fau.edu/larkin or call FAU’s History Symposium Series at 561-297-2764.  

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