IOP Honors George Magazine at Forum

Alexander B. Lemann

Media heavyweights gathered last night at the Institute of Politics to pay tribute to the legacy of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his pop-political magazine, “George.”

President Clinton and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined via satellite in a discussion on the relationship between culture, politics, and media.

As audience members presented their tickets to the lotteried event, they were greeted by images of former George covers. Photographs of George Clooney, Tom Hanks, and a belly button bearing Cindy Crawford flashed across the big screen, which soon broadcast Clinton speaking live from Chappaqua, N.Y.

“[George] blurred the political, civic, and personal” and altered the U.S. political landscape, Clinton said to the packed audience.

But the panelists debated the effects of these changes.

Chairman of Fox News and Fox Television Stations Roger Ailes said he did not consider the changes to be completely positive. He quoted Bruce Springsteen saying, “no one ever paid to hear me talk,” referring to celebrity efforts to influence the voting behavior of young people.

But Jehmu Greene, president of Rock the Vote, noted that the work of celebrities such as Springsteen or Diddy (who led the “Vote or Die” campaign) led to a historic turnout of young voters.

Tom Brokaw moderated the event, employing his trademark baritone and witty style to keep the confab of luminaries loose.

He pondered “what success I might have had,” if not rejected by the Harvard admissions committee decades ago.

“I didn’t realize that Brokaw was funny,” Matthew L. Sundquist ’09 said.

Brokaw also questioned the former president about the possibility of another Clinton presidential campaign, referring to his wife, Hilary, currently the junior senator from New York.

“I’m taking my wife to dinner and a movie tonight,” Clinton said. “Even though ‘Commander In Chief’ is on television,” alluding to the ABC television program about the first female president.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy ’54 and Caroline Kennedy ’80, who many speakers called integral to planning the event, also spoke during the forum.

In her opening remarks, Kennedy paid tribute to her adventurous younger brother, noting that he often told her that “second children start revolutions.”

Sen. Kennedy also became emotional as he discussed his nephew, who was killed in a plane crash in 1999, and the magazine’s mission.

While the panelists represented different sections of the political spectrum, all lauded Kennedy’s revolutionary spirit and noted its effect on such current cultural-political outlets such John Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

George magazine, which had a distribution surpassing 400,000 copies a month during its six-year lifetime, was dedicated to providing a view on the intersection of culture and politics.

The magazine was both criticized and celebrated for its unconventional approach to the discussion of politics.

“We think that the issue he tried to raise—how politics was shaped to some extent by pop culture—is an important one,” said Jeanne Shaheen, director of the IOP and former governor of New Hampshire.

Beginning with its first cover, George courted controversy. One issue included Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a list of influential political women because of her “girl power.”

The magazine halted publication in 2001.

CNN political analyst and George contributor Paul Begala also sat on the panel, and scheduled panelists Judy Woodruff from CNN’s Inside Politics and “The Nation” editor Katrina vanden Heuvel did not appear due to travel difficulties.