By Tom Hanaway (@tomhanaway)
On Thursday, Oct. 7, I got quite a surprising e-mail.
The previous day I had written about James VandeHei, co-founder of POLITICO and Journalism Department alumnus, who was going to give a speech at UW-Oshkosh on Oct. 8. The next thing I knew I was invited to the presentation to experience it for myself.
While I had planned on wearing sweatpants and sleeping in on that fateful Friday morning, suddenly I was digging through my closet trying to find an appropriate outfit for VandeHei’s speech, which would be given during the fifth-annual UW-Oshkosh Foundation Community Breakfast.
Nervous doesn’t begin to describe how I was feeling at that moment.
On that Friday, I woke up at the crack of dawn to get ready for the 7 a.m. breakfast that took place at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, but when I arrived I noticed two things;
1. This was obviously a huge deal. At the event were the members of the Board of Regents, reporters from local newspapers, presidents of local companies and organizations, and more.
2. I was one of roughly two college students at the breakfast, which made me feel very humbled to be one of the few students invited.
After some opening speeches, VandeHei, who is a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, took to the stage and discussed his education, POLITICO and the current political landscape.
He talked about how he slowly became a more prominent political journalist in Washington D.C. by working for such newspapers as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
He closed his presentation by giving his thoughts about the upcoming election. He noted recent trends in politics, like the Tea Party movement, certain political figures that were gaining much attention, like Sarah Palin, and what recent POLITCO polls were showing. I found the whole speech extremely interesting.
Afterward he took a few questions from the audience and then went to Reeve Memorial Union where he gave a similar speech that was open to all students, faculty and staff of UWO.
During his second speech I live-tweeted what VandeHei was saying on the Department of Journalism’s Twitter account to keep everyone in the loop. VandeHei was saying so many interesting and insightful quotes that it was hard to keep up with him. The whole time I was typing furiously and barely got a chance to actually look at him during his whole speech.
Before he left, Journalism graduate Melanie Stepanek, Journalism student assistant Lindsey Noack and I were able to sneak in a picture with VandeHei and shake his hand before he left. It was the perfect way to end the day.
Meeting VandeHei, who at one point was in the exact same position as I am, made me realize that I also have the potential to one day become a successful reporter, start my own business, or possibly even become a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.