As a high school newspaper editor and journalism geek, I was lucky enough to be one of 102 students selected to represent their home states in Washington, D.C., at the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. For a week, I got to be the high school newspaper equivalent of Miss New Jersey.
Before the conference, my mom took me to Lord & Taylor to buy the first suit I’d ever owned (it had shoulder pads). And I got the lady at the Lancome counter at the mall to show me how to properly apply make-up so I didn’t look like Avril Lavigne (I was in my “very heavy eyeliner phase” at the time).
The Freedom Forum through the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Program, brought us all to D.C. to meet with such journalism hot shots as Tim Russert, Brian Lamb and John King. In addition to panel after panel of media luminaries, we were introduced to the modern-day free sprits Al admired so much. That year, the honorees included Jack Lalanne and Bethany Hamilton.
Al made frequent appearances throughout our week in DC. In no uncertain terms, he told us we were the future of journalism. The quality of that future, he said, was dependent on our protection of the First Amendment.
While Al always referred to himself as an S.O.B., he told us we were to be “free spirits.” (As Al demonstrated, an S.O.B. and free spirit can, in fact, be one in the same.) He encouraged us not to simply pursue our passions, but to advocate for something better and bigger than ourselves in the world. Read the rest of this entry »