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Woodward speaks at second annual Distinguished Speakers Series
By Melissa Vasquez, Senior Editor
381-2741
Posted: 02/14/2006
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The “dean of investigative journalism,” Bob Woodward, was on the campus of The University of Texas-Pan American to speak at the second annual Distinguished Speakers Series Feb. 13.

More than 700 students, staff, faculty, and public packed the free event at the UTPA Fine Arts Auditorium that offered an opportunity to hear from Woodward, best known for helping uncover the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation with Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein.


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Bob Woodward takes questions from the local media before his Distinguished Speakers presentation Feb. 13.
Woodward discussed his conversations with President George W. Bush on the war in Iraq and the books – “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack” – that resulted from the interview. Woodward said during the interview, he asked Bush 500 questions, which he said the president answered very briefly.

“For three-and-a-half hours for two days I interviewed him about why he decided to go to war and it is still not clear to me why he agreed to do this (the interview). Researchers at the Washington Post have checked and basically can tell it is the longest interview a sitting president has ever given on any single subject going back to George Washington,” Woodward said. “If you ever see President Bush in press conferences there is an edginess to him, and this was not the case in these interviews, he wanted to explain what he had done.”

Woodward said he is currently writing his third book on Bush’s second administration that he has not titled yet. In addition, Woodward, who has written 12 best-selling nonfiction books and shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, touched briefly on his 1970s investigation of the Nixon-Watergate scandal. Woodward said Nixon’s hatred and paranoia is what ultimately put an end to his presidency.

“Nixon was one of the smartest presidents in terms of intellectual power to ever hold the presidency and that became evident to me on the day he resigned in August 1974,” Woodward said. “On the day he resigned the office he realized the hating had destroyed him.”

He also shared with the audience how he managed to keep the 30-year secret of Mark Felt, former assistant director of the FBI during the Nixon administration, who was the famed Watergate source, “Deep Throat.”

“I was horrified when it happened and I subsequently realized it is what he wanted to do,” he said. “It was an easy secret to keep and in the practical sense I think people can accept when I keep confidence I really mean it.”


UTPA Image
Pictured left to right are UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, Woodward, and UTPA Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Dr. John Edwards during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the “Surrendering the White House: Documenting Watergate” exhibit in the Visitors Center.
Woodward, who has been a journalist for 32 years, continues to write books and report stories for the Washington Post where he serves as an assistant managing editor.

Kimberly Guerra, a UTPA junior business management major, who had the opportunity to introduce Woodward to the audience, was part of the Distinguished Speakers Committee who chose the veteran journalist for the event.

“I think he was great. It was exactly what we had asked for. He touched a little bit on everything, which I think the students wanted to hear. I’m glad students had the opportunity to hear from him,” Guerra said.

While on campus, Woodward also participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony of the exhibit “Surrendering the White House: Documenting Watergate,” in the Visitors Center. The exhibit, which runs through April 28, focuses on coverage of the Watergate hearings by famed White House photographer Stanley Tretick and the Watergate Papers by Woodward and Bernstein.

The event was sponsored by the Distinguished Speakers Committee and underwritten by student fees as recommended by the Student Affairs Advisory Committee. The committee also receives support from the UTPA Student Union and other University departments.

Other speakers scheduled for the spring 2006 semester include Dr. Sanjay Gupta, senior medical correspondent for the health and medical unit at CNN, March 20; and Dr. Sarah Weddington, who is well-known for her work on issues affecting women through her many roles, which include attorney, legislator, presidential adviser, and professor, will speak April 18.

For more information on the next speakers, contact Samuel A. Smith, assistant dean of students and Distinguished Speakers Committee chairman, at smiths@panam.edu or call 956/316-7989.