To commemorate Casey Shearer '00 on the 10-year anniversary of his death, Salomon 101 was filled Thursday evening for a keynote speech by political commentator Mara Liasson '77 and the announcement of the winners of the 10th annual Casey Shearer Memorial Award for Excellence in Creative Nonfiction.
Introduced by Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library, as "quite possibly the only Brown graduate who has ever been on Fox News," Liasson spoke on the political atmosphere of Washington, D.C., as national political correspondent for National Public Radio and commentator for Fox News.
Liasson, who covers D.C. politics and policies spoke on a wide range of topics surrounding both the political arena and the Obama administration.
Liasson opened with a discussion of the recently passed health care bill and its impact and repercussions for the administration. "It was big for the president," she said. "He delivered on his promise not to play ‘small ball.' He wanted to do something big and he did it."
The issue now, she said, is what the Democrats will do next as they "embark on the next big chapter of the health care debate."
"I think you can make the argument, like many have, that the bill wasn't radical enough. It preserves the employer-provided health-benefit system that many think needs to be torn up by its roots. He designed a health care plan that he thought could pass," Liasson said.
And this, she believes, could have serious repercussions in the upcoming November midterm elections.
The fact that Obama followed the conventional political process despite his campaign message of transparency and massive reform disappointed the Democratic base, she said.
"He was going to change the way Washington worked — and I think he's rethought this — but he's certainly trying to fulfill the promises he made," she continued.
Now that the health-care bill has become law, Liasson considered the next big challenges she believes Obama will face — the national debt and deficit, immigration reform and energy conservation. But "none of these issues are going to loom as much as health care and the economy in November," she concluded.
Shearer, who died when an undetected virus unexpectedly stopped his heart days before his graduation, became known on campus as the play-by-play sports announcer for WBRU and as sportswriter for the College Hill Independent. Shearer's appreciation and passion for journalism inspired his parents to initiate the award to commemorate their son.
"We try to have a special event that crosses boundaries in various ways. Our son Casey was a very special young man that managed to cross many boundaries and bring people together," she said. "The people that have written these essays have done the same thing today. Everyone has dealt with crossing boundaries, and the way you can communicate with people."
Elizabeth Taylor, senior lecturer in English and director of the Nonfiction Writing Program, presented the awards prior to the lecture. First place was awarded to Sarah Gibson '10.5. Second place was awarded to Sara Mann '10 and honorable mentions were given to Emily Segal '10.5 and Laura Brown-Lavoie '10.5.