Closing Thoughts From Director Sesno

June 27, 2020

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Dear SMPA Students,

I write to you as I prepare to pass the baton after 11 years as SMPA director. It has been a singular privilege to serve in this capacity. I have gotten to know so many amazing students and watched you do so many incredible things. I’ve seen you grapple with big problems, ask tough questions, explore unfamiliar, often uncomfortable, places. I’ve watched you intern and work on campaigns, in newsrooms, on behalf of causes - across the country, around the world.

Amid the epic tumult we are now experiencing, you’ve stood for inquiry, empathy, inclusion - and for the fight against systemic racism.

It is no exaggeration to say that you have inspired me. 

I started covering Washington and the world more than 40 years ago when I came to DC to work for the Voice of America. Then the AP, then CNN. I was a foreign correspondent, White House correspondent, anchor, and bureau chief. I have never seen a time like this. Some are pessimistic. I am not. Though we face incredible challenges, I believe in the ‘arc of history’ that President Obama frequently invoked. Despite setbacks and hardship, it bends toward progress. And I know that you will give voice to your ideals and contribute to the changes we so desperately need.

I’ll be on sabbatical next year, focusing on a variety of media projects and GW initiatives: raising money for an endowed chair in environmental media honoring Ted Turner, the founder of CNN; working with our new Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics, which researches and seeks solutions to the poisonous disinformation that afflicts us; building Planet Forward and the stories of climate change, environmental equity, and sustainability.  When I return, I will continue with this work in a new role as SMPA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

We have a strong sense of community embracing students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and friends. Incoming SMPA Director Silvio Waisbord will grow this community and take it to exciting new places.

Through the difficulties and uncertainty we face, I wish you the very best. Take care of yourselves. Support your family and friends. Read, write, report. Engage. And be sure to vote and get others to vote. 

Thank you for making this a special place. You make me #SMPAProud. 

Frank Sesno