TWO MASTERS of media will open sessions at the 2008 Offset and Beyond Conference. James Bradley, author of “Flags of Our Father,” and David Gregory, MSNBC chief White House correspondent, will deliver unforgettable messages. Each of the speakers was interviewed by PIA/GATF staff members in preparation for the keynotes. The following article highlights those conversations.
James Bradley will kick off the opening day with riveting, timeless themes of courage and overcoming obstacles. In a recent interview, Bradley indicated that his message will segue from the historical examples of supposedly insurmountable tasks where people said it could not be done, to everyday life and job challenges that people think cannot be done.
Bradley says his own book is a good example of “they said it couldn’t be done,” since 27 publishers over the course of 25 months refused to publish the book; yet, his book and the film of the same name have been critically acclaimed. His topic, while related to World War II (WW II), is really timeless and, he adds, “the messages are not in any time zone.”
Bradley recounted his mentors or inspirations during his life. He was fortunate to have a fantastic and inspirational coach at the University of Wisconsin. Bradley caddied for Vince Lombardi, the famous Green Bay Packers coach, and learned first-hand his attitude about winning. Bart Starr, the legendary Packers quarterback, was a neighbor and also a key figure while growing up in Wisconsin. Steven Ambrose, renowned historian and author, was a huge influence and friend.
All these famous names, as well as his quiet, unassuming father, framed his formative years that led to a career in travel, writing, speaking and researching.
In reference to his father, Bradley reveals that he and his mother heard next to nothing about his father’s mission or his actions related to Iwo Jima. In 47 years of marriage, his mother never knew of the world dignitaries such as Truman and the English royalty who met and talked with his dad.
The family wasn’t aware of the 400,000 people who participated in a Times Square parade in honor of the Iwo Jima victory and the statue dedication. Bradley relates that all his mother knew about Iwo Jima and his father, she learned from the book that her son researched and the many interviews with the living participants of that fateful battle.
When asked about the movie of the same name and his role, Bradley says that the scripting was based entirely on the book and he was consulted regularly. “But, frankly, nobody tells Clint Eastwood what to do.” Eastwood was meticulous about the details that were in the film, from the historical film footage used to the authenticity of the WW II armaments. The widely researched book and the landmark film based on it met with critical success in the United States.
As a result of Bradley writing the first two books about the huge number of people killing each other on both sides of the Pacific, and his life-altering year of study in Japan, he started the James Bradley Peace Foundation. The focus of the foundation is to send high school students to live, work and learn for one year in China or Japan.
“The experiences change the students from day one,” he points out. His hope is that the next time a decision is “between talking or fighting,” students will be more influenced to talk it out. Profits from the book sales are earmarked to support the mission of the foundation.
When we look at the iconic picture of the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima, we don’t realize there is a story behind the story. Conference attendees will hear this amazing story and the messages for life. It will resonate with attendees from a historical and family perspective, as well as touch on everyday life challenges.
David Gregory, MSNBC White House correspondent, will also be a keynote speaker. A giant (figuratively and literally, since he stands 6’6” tall) on the world scene in broadcast media, Gregory brings the right political and communication background to the group in a presidential race. The pillars of his program will center on his White House experience, his time and impression of President Bush, as well as his election observations. Needless to say, some of Gregory’s humor, candid asides and anecdotes will please the audience.
When asked who has influenced his life, he points to Tim Russert (Washington Bureau chief for NBC and “Meet the Press” moderator) and Tom Brokaw (author and NBC anchor-emeritus). Gregory likes the style of Charley Rose (PBS interviewer) and reveals that becoming a White House correspondent was a dream of his since he was a teenager.
Since Gregory is predominantly in the news and political arena, remaining neutral is paramount to his success and professionalism. He has had to check his own emotions and keep his independent streak, while noting neutrality is a huge responsibility of which he takes seriously. Gregory adds that the political domain is a “minefield.”
His favorite interviewees are heads of state on the world stage. He particularly likes to speak to Presidents and ex-Presidents and mentioned a recent interview with Israel’s head of state. Name national notables, and Gregory has probably interviewed them—candidates, the President, Vice President, Secretary of State and numerous foreign dignitaries. Given that he has covered President Bush the last seven years, and has been known to imitate him in a respectfully humorous way, Gregory will entertain and enlighten the Offset and Beyond audience.
In discussing why people vote for a particular candidate during an election, Gregory believes that foremost is the personality of the candidate; second, and to a lesser degree, their position on issues; and, lastly, the strength of the organization behind the candidate. This includes the organization’s ability to reach people, stage the audience, frame the questions and, most importantly, influence voter turnout.
Gregory will also discuss the evolution of broadcast distribution, particularly in a political cycle with cell phones, YouTube and iPods. “The candidates must be on all the time.” The news cycle is immediate and capturing embarrassing moments, revealing a temper, or a tear is all part of the public domain.
When asked if he will be giving the audience his predictions about the outcome of the Presidential election, he indicated, without an instant of hesitation, “no.” Somehow we were not surprised. The audience will come away with candid insights into an election year, but will need to form their own predictions on the results. PI
About the Author
Mary Garnett, executive vice president of PIA/GATF and the Web Offset Association, and Justin Goldstein, meetings coordinator, interviewed the keynote speakers for the 2008 Offset and Beyond Conference. For more information about the conference, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.