Mississippi University for Women hosted its annual fundraiser, the Welty Gala, on Friday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. as a featured event of the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium.
This year, the gala was bigger and better than ever. There were several changes to the Gala this year, particularly the decision to move the location from the W to the Trotter Convention Center. The W’s Jazz Ensemble was also featured.
Jeffery Toobin, a senior analyst for CNN, staff writer for “The New Yorker” and best-selling author, was the guest speaker for the Gala. He spoke on a variety of topics, such as his books, politics and various legal cases. However, the main focus of his speech was the U.S. Supreme Court.
Toobin mentioned a variety of cases, including Loving v. Virginia (1967), Roe v. Wade (1973) and Bush v. Gore (2000). He also explained how these cases have affected the public over the years and what role Supreme Court justices play in reality.
“My view is that the Supreme Court is a deeply political body and one whose decisions reverberate through many people’s everyday lives,” said Toobin. “But because there is no television in the court rooms, people tend to forget how important it is and what the justices are like behind the scenes. I like to talk about the significance of the Supreme Court in contemporary politics.”
Toobin was willing to answer questions from students, local media and audience members during various question and answer sessions. In a news conference with several reporters before the Gala, Toobin expressed his views on the concept of fake news.
“We’re at a moment when news seems very politicized,” said Toobin. “Between cable news and the Internet, and certainly your Facebook feed and Twitter, you can curate what kind of news you get in a way that’s very different from when your parents were growing up — basically everyone in the whole country watched Walter Cronkite.
“The news media is very atomized, and it’s become atomized by politics,” said Toobin. “I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing because people can choose the news they want.”
The conversation changed gears when Toobin offered advice for students who desire to pursue a career similar to his.
“I think it’s important to be a good storyteller and to be able to keep people interested in whatever you’re telling them, and that’s a skill that will cross over whatever technologies exist now or in the future,” said Toobin. “Yes, it’s true that the forms of distribution are different, but good storytelling, whether it’s using video, audio or words, will always have an audience.”
Students benefitted from this advice and Toobin’s speech as a whole.
“I really enjoyed the Welty Gala this year,” said Gabrielle Lestrade, a W student. “It’s the most fun and most beautiful that it’s been in the four years that I’ve been here. Jeffrey Toobin seemed like a very knowledgeable speaker, and even as a man working in politics and the news, he seemed very willing to connect with everyone at the Gala, but us as students as well.”
Lexi Fowler also praised the Gala and Toobin.
“My favorite part of the Gala was hearing Jeffrey Toobin speak and getting to meet him,” said Fowler. “I have seen him on CNN, and it was so cool to see him in person. I have always been interested in politics, so I thoroughly enjoyed his very informative speech.”