PBS Journalist Speaks
Date: October 13, 2008
“It’s a joy to be on a Seventh-day Adventist campus. I’ve long admired the church for its steadfast fidelity to its own way of being Christian and its strong defense of the free exercise of minority faith and most especially for the church’s rigorous and consistent defense of the separation of church and state,” began Ray Suarez, an award-winning broadcast journalist and Washington-based senior correspondent for PBS’s “The NewsHour.” Suarez addressed Andrews University students during University Forum on Thursday, Oct. 9, in the filled-to-capacity Howard Performing Arts Center. The monthly University Forum, often presented by noted leaders, focuses on major issues of concern to Christians as they live and work in the world.
Suarez, author of a recent book on the convergence of faith and politics in America, gave an eye-opening look at the current religious climate in the political arena by posing the question: “Just how much would religion matter this time [presidential election] around?”
Noting the now infamous connection between the often-inflammatory Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama, Suarez said, “It will be interesting to watch how the ‘Wright Effect’ shapes the public perception of Obama over time.” Switching focus to the other side of the political divide, Suarez noted, “Eventually John McCain did cut Pastor Hagee loose after some of his more ‘novel’ views of the historic Catholic Church started to be played out on the Internet and come to light in the printed press.”
“In European society, politicians are reluctant to talk about their faith. Here, they are expected to do so,” stated Suarez.
Immediately following Forum, Suarez was the guest of honor at a Leadership Luncheon. Student leaders from across campus had a chance to talk one-on-one with the guest of honor, while posing their own questions of faith and politics.
"Having a nationally recognized media professional, like Ray Suarez, visit Andrews created a unique experience,” said Andre Weston, a senior English major. “I am glad the student body was able to have an encounter with him. Essentially his lecture about faith and politics plugged right into our campus's ongoing discussion about Christianity's place in a secular world."
Suarez, who speaks widely at college campuses, says, “I want them to realize this is not simple and not something that yields easily to simple questions and simple answers. If they are kids for whom religion is important, the lives they lead and the civic engagement they model for the rest of their lives will be America’s conclusion about the right relationship between religion and politics. They will shape the question instead of watching other people do it,” said Suarez.
Later, Suarez signed copies of his latest book, The Holy Vote, at the Andrews University Bookstore. The book is an examination of the tightening relationship between religion and politics in America. In addition to several other books, Suarez’s writing has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, to name a few.
Prior to becoming senior correspondent for “The NewsHour,” Suarez hosted the nationwide, call-in news program “Talk of the Nation.” Suarez also hosts the monthly public radio foreign affairs series “America Abroad” for PRI and is the narrator for American RadioWorks, the documentary unit of American Public Media. His impressive career history includes positions for WMAQ-TV in Chicago; CNN; ABC Radio Network; CBS Radio; and American and British news services in London. Suarez has also narrated, anchored or reported many documentaries for public radio and television.
Suarez holds a BA in African History from New York University and an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. He was a founding member of the Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists and is a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he now resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and three children.
-Written by Keri Suarez, media relations specialist, Office of Integrated Marketing & Communication