Helen Thomas, a remarkable woman, continues to inspire, motivate and ask the tough questions. Being the longest serving reporter at the White House, she even has the distinction of having her own seating assignment in the center seat of the front row of the White House Press Briefing Room. Alongside her are NBC, AP, CBS, ABC, Reuters and CNN.
When one has the opportunity to listen to Helen Thomas and even ask her questions, a glimpse of history, experience and perspective is gained. Even more important is the notion that regardless of party affiliation of the president, Thomas continues to ask for the truth and ask for results not being swayed by eloquence or words used as propaganda. It is important to remember that once a president takes office, it is no longer a Democratic or Republican agenda – it is an American agenda. Therefore, it is imperative to have a free press and one that seeks to know the truth within all administrations.
In Amendent 1 of the U.S. Constitution it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or othe right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.”
Thomas is known for causing angst in the George W. Bush administration for persistently asking about the war in Iraq. Now, she is causing some anxiousness by asking the Barack Obama administration about results following many eloquent speeches.
Turning the tables from asking the questions to offering advice (a new role for Thomas), she and Craig Crawford, have co-authored Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted to Your President to Know and Do.
Having been at the White House since President Lyndon B. Johnson, Helen Thomas has witnessed the best and worst of our times and always has the pulse on what makes leadership at the White House work or not work. Distilling the years of experience, her main points are offered in the chapter titles:
- Brace Yourself: The Worst is Yet to Come
- Your are not Above the Law: Read the Constitution
- Watch your Image: You’re on YouTube
- Open Up: The People have a Right to Know
- Tell the Truth: You’ll be Forgiven
- Have Courage: Even if it Hurts
- Give Us Vision: It’s Your Legacy
- Do the Right Thing: You’ll Never be Wrong
- Pay Attention: And You Won’t be Surprised
- Listen Up, Voters: It’s Up to You
This advice is suitable for everyone. Not only is the president not above the law, the president is there to serve the voters. It is a two-way relationship.
Voters should let the appropriate government representatives know if the government services and oversight are working well. And, if a government program is not working well, it is the right of every citizen to share their opinion and demand accountability. This is what makes a democracy work well.
As Thomas has said in the past, read as much as you can, learn history and ask questions. It is your right and your responsibility.
By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, D.C.