Former Fox News commentator and renowned syndicated columnist Cal Thomas spoke at Samford University to an audience of more than 120 students, faculty and visitors for a Howard College of Arts and Sciences Colloquium on American Citizenship lecture on Thursday, Nov. 9. The title of his talk, “What I Have Seen Over 50 Years Reporting on America,” offered reflections on his career covering American politics and writing a decades-long weekly syndicated column.
His talk included insights about how journalism has changed over the course of his life, saying he would like to see more journalists committed to “doing the hard work of reporting” rather than simply entertaining. Journalism, he noted, depends upon a desire to uncover the truth and inform the public. Its purpose for a free society fails if it simply parrots political agendas without holding itself to a higher standard. He also offered reflections on what we can expect from the upcoming presidential primaries and where he thinks the crisis in the Middle East may be heading. Thomas told the audience that whoever is elected president in 2024, the world will need to see strength and resolve from the United States in the face of increasing global destabilization.
Thomas also offered observations about the relationship between moral commitments and political freedom, reminding the audience that in a democratic society, “leadership reflects the moral condition of the people who put them in power.” He said Washington is very limited in addressing moral problems because power is so seductive. “People running for office often say they will change how things are done in Washington. It won’t. Washington will change them every time.” Core spiritual and cultural problems are not problems that the state's coercive power can fix, and the loss of a common moral consensus is one of the key indicators of a nation in decline. Thomas quoted his late friend Barbara Bush to emphasize his point, “Your success as a family... our success as a nation... depends less on what happens inside the White House and more on what happens inside your house.”
Thomas’ latest book, A Watchman in the Night: What I've Seen Over 50 Years Reporting on America, is available at the Samford University bookstore.