The New Republic celebrated 100 years of powerful, innovative and thought-provoking journalism on Wednesday night, with a guest list that can be described in equal terms. From keynote speaker, President Bill Clinton, to speeches from the publication’s Chris Hughes (owner, publisher and editor-in-chief), Frank Foer (editor), and Leon Wieseltier (literary editor), even a performance from Grammy-winning jazz musician, Wynton Marsalis, the evening was filled with a spirit of cultural and civic optimism.
Not to diminish from the rest of the evening, but the former president’s speech was certainly the highlight of the gala and was nothing short of captivating. Touching on everything from the early 20th Century and the World Wars, the human genome, income inequality, immigration, education, to “identity politics” (i.e. ethnic/religious bigotry) of ISIS, Russia, and Boko Haram; he was somehow able to tie it all together, as only he could.
The former president explained to the audience that we [The United States] are the best “positioned” country for the next two decades, however, “there’s still a lot of work to make our Union more perfect.” He expressed how we must caution ourselves against the echo chamber of homogenous media by listening to the ideas of others, even if we disagree. With the perfect balance of humor and sincerity, Clinton recalled how his mother-in-law, allegedly the most liberal member of the Clinton clan, would watch FOX News every night. This prompted him to ask her one evening, “are you trying to give yourself a heart attack?” to which she responded, “no, I’m trying to get my blood pumping.” He ended the speech by congratulating the magazine on its 100 years of journalistic integrity, stating “we need you now, maybe more than ever.”
Among the many notable personalities spotted in the crowd were Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, former Clinton advisor and CNN commentator, Paul Begala, co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle, Touré, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, former editor of The New Republic and writer/blogger/commentator, Andrew Sullivan, co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, and Columbia Law professor, Tim Wu.