On Oct. 2, the first Open VISIONS Forum of the Regina A. Quick Center opened with Margaret “Peggy” Ellen Noonan, the writer best known for her 20 years spent at the Wall Street Journal, or her year spent writing speeches for President Ronald Reagan.
The entire event was done via video conferencing, with Noonan phoning in from her desk, wearing a snow-white blazer, stacked pearl necklace and glittering jewels in either ear, with all other panelists either home or on campus.
Philip Eliasoph, Ph. D, professor of art history and visual culture, and director of the Open VISIONS Forum program, introduced Noonan.
Bank of America partnered with the Quick Center to invite Noonan to speak as part of the Open Vision’s Women and Leadership series – perfectly timed to celebrate the momentous occasion that is 50 years since the first graduating class of Fairfield University to include women. So, before passing it off to Noonan, Bill Tommins, the marketing president for Bank of America of Connecticut thanked Noonan for joining as well, and talked the audience through what his company has done for women.
When the screen finally flashed back to Noonan, she began by speaking quite generally about the last few years, this past year in particular, and was full of jokes and lightness as she trapezed around the conversation of American politics. She paused after one poorly timed joke about mean comments and her arthritis, and stated, “I’m imagining all of you laughing at home.”
She provided an honesty that many people lack today. She pointed out flaws in today’s Republican party, just as much as she pointed out flaws amongst Democrats.
One topic of discussion that felt incredibly relevant throughout the evening was President Donald Trump’s recent hospitalization for COVID-19.
Noonan said that during these past months, we had been warned of a “second wave” of the coronavirus.
“[COVID-19] appears very showily as a big illustration of itself,” she said. “The second wave has arrived and has affected our political climate.”
Exactly how it will affect our politics, or the election cycle, Noonan stated that she does not know, nor does anyone else.
Noonan ended her speech by leaving the audience with a bit of an open-ended question about what will happen if Joe Biden can campaign while Trump remains ill, or quarantined. Noonan believes Biden to be ahead of Trump in nearly every area. She said that he is ahead in the polls, has quite a bit of money left to spend and now has the ability to travel around the country while Trump’s stuck in place for two weeks.
“We are living big history,” Noonan said, “take notes.”
Her speech ended, kicking off the question and answer session with Eliasoph. He was joined by Emily Dreas, a market executive at Bank of America Private Bank and visiting professor Phil Klay, who holds a master’s in creative writing, and is a U.S. Marine as well as a National Book Award winner.
The three took turns throwing questions Noonan’s way, and though we gained insight into her ideas on political issues of the modern times and what she thought was right and wrong with each of the National Conventions, it was clear that what she’s most proud and passionate about is her writing.
When asked by an audience member what her favorite thing that she has written was, she paused before listing nearly everything she’s ever written: her columns post Sept. 11, 2000, her speeches for Reagan, her articles during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles and her books, before exclaiming with a laugh, “I’m proud of everything!”
After the event, Eliasoph provided The Mirror with his thoughts on the event via email.
“Considering we are standing on a precipice, looking into a possible political abyss, for a free and legitimate Presidential election on Nov. 3, Peggy Noonan’s Open VISIONS Forum presentation reassured us that the American people won’t allow an impending apocalypse. With her signature sense of candor, clarity and confidence, Noonan connected the inherent goodness of America’s voters to ‘do the right thing’.”
Eliasoph continued by stating that Noonan, “as a veteran ‘insider’ of the Republican establishment, who literally put some of the greatest phrases into the mouth of President Reagan,” gave a “‘reality check’” when “she explained how her GOP party will need to totally ‘reboot and rebuild itself from the ground up’ after the Jan. 20 Inauguration of President Biden.”
Peter Van Heerden, the executive director of the Quick Center, tended to agree with Eliasoph, saying the event was “a great success.”
“We learned from a true expert and journalist that there needs to be humility and acceptance, and that politics do not define an individual,” Van Heerden said. “We have the capacity to be larger than our ideologies.”
He restates how proud the Quick Center was to work with Bank of America and to provide a stage for the “powerful women in the world today.”