Meet our Next Speaker

Hedrick Smith

Monday, May 16, 2016

Topic: Reclaiming the American Dream

HedrickSmithHedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor and Emmy award-winning producer/correspondent, has established himself over the past 50 years of his career as one of America’s most distinguished journalists.

In 26 years with The New York Times, Mr. Smith covered Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam War in Saigon, the Middle East conflict from Cairo, the Cold War from both Moscow and Washington, and six American presidents and their administrations. In 1971, as chief diplomatic correspondent, he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that produced the Pentagon Papersseries. In 1974, he won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting from Russia and Eastern Europe.

His book The Russians, based on his years as New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief from 1971-74, was a No. 1 American best-seller. It has been translated into 16 languages and has been widely used in university and college courses.  His next book, The Power Game: How Washington Works, was also a major best-seller. It became a bible for newly elected members of Congress and their staffs and was bedside reading for President Clinton. His newest book, Who Stole the American Dream? published by Random House in September 2012 , has been hailed by critics for brilliant analsysis of political and economic trends and changes in the U.S. over the past 30-40 years.

For PBS since 1989, Hedrick Smith has created 26 prime-time specials and mini-series on such varied topics as terrorism, Wall Street, Soviet perestroika,Wal-Mart, Enron, tax evasion, educational reform, health care, the environment, jazz greats Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, and Washington’s power game.

Mr. Smith’s documentary work has won many of televisions major awards. Two of his Frontline programs, The Wall Street Fix and Can You Afford to Retire?  won Emmies and two others, Critical Condition and Tax Me If You Can were nominated. Twice he has won or shared the Columbia-Dupont Gold Baton, or grand prize, for the year’s best public affairs program on U.S. television – for Inside Gorbachev’s USSR in 1990, and for Inside the Terror Network in 2002, an investigation of the Al Qaeda pilots who carried out the 9/11 attack and how the U.S. missed chances to stop them. Along with the George Polk, George Peabody and Sidney Hillman awards for reportorial excellence, his programs have won two national public service awards.

One distinctive feature of Hedrick Smith’s television productions is his focus not just on examining systemic problems in modern America but on seeking solutions, which was the title of his mini-series on teen violence and hate crime, used by the Justice Department and members of Congress. His PBS reports have probed the costs and causes of poor health care, failures in education, the collapse of traditional pensions and the flaws of 401k plans, and the modern burdens of working couples juggling work and family. He couples that analysis with vivd grass roots success stories, giving audiences concrete examples of how others have confronted and overcome obstacles.

Mr. Smith’s career began in print journalism in the 1950s, with summer jobs as a cub reporter for The Greenville (S.C.) News. After graduating from Williams College, doing graduate work as a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University, and serving three years in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Smith joined United Press International in Memphis, Nashville and Atlanta, 1959-62. He moved to The New York Times, 1962-88.  He was chosen for a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard in 1969-70.

Mr. Smith began creating documentaries for PBS in 1989 with an adaptation from his best-selling book, The Power Game. His second documentary series, Inside Gorbachev’s USSR, broadcast on PBS in 1990, built on his experience as Moscow Bureau Chief for The Times in the 1970s, on his best selling book, The Russians, and on his subsequent coverage of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika

As a documentarian, Mr. Smith has ranged widely. Before the 2000 election, PBS devoted an entire prime-time evening to his three-hour pre-election special on the quality of U.S. health care, Critical Condition With Hedrick Smith. He has produced two four-hour mini-series on the impact of the global economy on the American middle class, Challenge to America and Surviving the Bottom Line. For Black History month in 2000, he gave PBS viewers Duke Ellington’s Washington. A year later, he created Rediscovering Dave Brubeck, an intimate portrait of the legendary jazz pianist.

In September 1999, after deadly violence at several U.S. public schools, Hedrick Smith Productions created a three-hour prime-time special, Seeking Solutions, that broke new ground by showing effective grass roots responses in six American communities to teen violence, gangs, street crime and hate crime.. This program won a national public service award from Sigma Delta Chi, the jouralistic honorar society.

He subsequently led Frontline investigative reports – Bigger Than Enron, The Wall Street Fix, Tax Me If You CanIs Wal-Mart Good for America?  Spying on the Home Front, and Can You Afford to Retire? These programs probed accounting scandals, conflicts on Wall Street, corporate fraud and tax evasion, the collapsing private pension system, and data mining and domestic eavesdropping by the NSA and FBI.

Making Schools Work, Mr. Smith’s two-hour special on education in October 2005, won a second national public service award from Sigma Delta Chi. In two previous series, Challenge to America in 1994 and Surviving the Bottom Line in 1998, Hedrick Smith Productions compared the performance of American schools with such other countries as Germany, Japan and China.

Over 25 years, PBS viewers saw Hedrick Smith as a principal panelist on Washington Week in Review and as a special correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Mr. Smith has received seven honorary doctorate degrees. He is well known as an effective speaker to college commencements, civic groups, business conventions, and lecture series nationwide, admired for cogent analysis and compelling story-telling.
(August 2012)

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Mid-Coast Forum on Foreign Relations
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Upcoming Speakers

  • Monday, May 16, 2016
    Hedrick Smith
    Topic: Reclaiming the American Dream
  • Monday, June 6, 2016
    Oscar Guardiola-Rivera
    Topic: U.S. Foreign Policy in Latin America: What We Have Learned from the Overthrow of Allende
  • Monday, June 20, 2016
    Yossi Alpher
    Topic: Movement at last in the Middle East?
  • Monday, July 11, 2016
    Paul Pillar
    Topic: Why America Misunderstands the World
  • Monday, August 22, 2016
    Ambassador Steven Steiner
    Topic: Building Peace Through the Empowerment of Women in Post-Conflict Countries
  • Monday, October 10, 2016
    Ambassador Michael McFaul
    Topic: Russia

View all speakers past and present »

Announcements

“The GOP Candidates Know Nothing About Syria” by John Kiriakou (our April speaker)

Posted on Saturday January 2

The GOP Candidates Know Nothing about Syria Published on Thursday, December 31, 2015  by Other Words (Photo: Rick Wilking/Reuters) Like many political animals, I was glued to the latest Republican presidential debate. For the most part, there were no surprises: Donald Trump railed against Muslims, Chris Christie lamented that the NSA can’t intercept Americans’ phone calls and emails as [...]

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“The Theology of American National Security” by Andrew Bacevich (our Jan. 2016 speaker)

Posted on Friday December 4

Reproduced from TomDispatch.com: The Theology of American National Security by Andrew Bacevich In April 2003, with Baghdad occupied by American troops, the top officials of the Bush administration were already dreaming of building bases in Iraq that would be garrisoned more or less in perpetuity. Everyone was too polite to call them “permanent bases,” so [...]

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Climate Change in a Nutshell (from Senator King)

Posted on Thursday December 3

Friends, Thank you for your interest in one of the climate change cards I keep in my pocket. For me, the graphs on the card are the simplest and clearest way to show not only the unprecedented and growing amount of CO2 in our atmosphere, but also its close correlation to global temperatures in the [...]

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Commentary by Past Forum Speaker, Graham Fuller

Posted on Friday October 9

We Hate ‘Em All! October 8, 2015 by Graham E. Fuller We Hate ‘Em All! With the arrival of Russian forces on the scene the Syrian situation has now grown unbearably complicated. Among the totality of players on the scene, Washington hates them all. The US has long detested Asad father and son; for years it has [...]

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Jessica Mathews on Henry Kissinger

Posted on Wednesday May 20

In a March issue of The New York Review of Books, our July speaker, Jessica Mathews dissects the new book by Henry Kissinger: “Almost from the beginning of its history, America has struggled to find a balance in its foreign policy between narrowly promoting its own security and idealistically serving the interests of others; between, as [...]

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Stephen Walt on Arming Ukraine (a really bad idea)

Posted on Thursday February 12

One of our 2013 speakers, Professor Stephen Walt, has a recent article in Foreign Policy about General Breedlove’s dubious plan to send US arms to Ukraine.  Click here for full article.

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A Nuclear Deal With Iran?

Posted on Friday December 12

Excerpts from January speaker Hossein Mousavian’s article entitled Why geopolitical shifts dictate a nuclear deal with Iran: “Although a week of high-level talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna made good progress, negotiators failed to reach an agreement and instead set a new deadline of March 1, 2015, for a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and a [...]

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Gregory Johnson’s Harrowing Escape

Posted on Friday December 5

Gregory Johnson was our Forum speaker last April.  Read his recent BuzzFeed story on My Last Day in Yemen: “Yemen was like a home away from home for me — until the day I was nearly abducted in broad daylight, and narrowly missed suffering a grim fate similar to other journalists drawn to covering, and [...]

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Rania Abouzeid on the Mess in Iraq

Posted on Friday July 11

Read what Rania Abouzeid (our September 22nd speaker) had to say in her June Politico article:  “The Jihad Next Door: The Syrian roots of Iraq’s newest civil war”

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Stephen Walt on His Forum Experience

Posted on Thursday August 9

We often write about our speakers after they appear at the Forum, but Steve Walt is the first one to write about us after speaking.  Click here for his latest Foreign Policy article.

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