Alumni, students, and parents filled the Abramson Family Founders Room – and then, the giant stairs outside of the room – for Dean James Goldgeier’s discussion with David Gregory, SIS/BA ’92, about Gregory’s new book How’s Your Faith? at the School of International Service (SIS). The discussion took place on Saturday, October 17 during All-American Weekend. Watch the video of the discussion here.
Gregory, former NBC newsman and Meet the Press moderator, is a Distinguished Journalist in Residence at SIS.
During the presentation, Dean Goldgeier asked Gregory about faith and the inspiration for his book.
“I describe the book as the story of my return to faith as an adult,” Gregory responded. “It’s about my efforts to grapple with something I think we all grapple with – how do we live a life of meaning and purpose? How do we deal with the ultimate question of who we are in the world?”
In his book, Gregory probes various religious traditions to better understand his own faith. His journey has taken him inside Christian mega-churches and into deep study of Orthodox Judaism. He has asked tough questions of America's religious leaders, including evangelical preacher Joel Osteen and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York.
Gregory also explained during the discussion that his faith has allowed him to reexamine his childhood, especially his mother's struggle with alcoholism.
However, Gregory's answer to the titular question – “How’s Your Faith?” – wasn’t always clear. Raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, Gregory grew up with a strong sense of Jewish cultural and ethnic identity, but according to him, no unwavering belief. It wasn’t until his marriage to Beth Wilkinson, a lawyer and devout Protestant woman, that Gregory began to explore his spirituality for himself and his growing family.
“I do say that my wife Beth is really the central character because she was the inspiration for my return to faith,” said Gregory.
Gregory discussed how he met Wilkinson under unlikely and unromantic circumstances – at the Oklahoma City bombing trial. Wilkinson, who was a prosecutor during the case, successfully argued for the execution of bomber Timothy McVeigh.
“Beth felt it was important to get the jury in the mindset to act as the moral conscience of the community. She said to the jury, ‘Look him in the eye and tell him he is no hero. That he is a coward and deserves to die.’ Ultimately the jury did that...and we found true love,” Gregory quipped.
Dean Goldgeier then asked Gregory about his experience at SIS and career advice for current students.
Gregory, who said that he was and still is “very dedicated to SIS,” involved himself in the vast opportunities available at SIS while a student, including a study abroad session in France. His advice to students was honest and frank: Make an impression and make it now.
“My advice to younger people is to start building the career path as you’re on the educational path. Start thinking about this while you are still a freshman. And, if you get an internship, you have to make an impression. I think that’s my biggest advice to young people. Learn how to make yourself known,” Gregory implored.
Returning to the book, Dean Goldgeier inquired about a less obvious source of inspiration for How’s Your Faith? As it turns out, the title was not inspired by Gregory’s wife, nor even the religious leaders he interviewed, but by President George W. Bush. While Gregory was covering the White House, he had the baffling experience of being asked by the president, "How's your faith?"
“Nobody then or since has asked me as penetrating a question as ‘How’s your faith?’” Gregory declared.
Although Gregory entertained the audience with a lighthearted anecdote about President Bush, which he performed in Bush’s drawl, at a joint conference with former French President Jacques Chirac, he expressed admiration for Bush’s commitment to his faith.
A robust audience question and answer session followed the discussion. Afterward, enthusiastic attendees lined up to purchase books and have them signed by Gregory. Some even snapped selfies with him.
Gregory’s discussion was a highlight of All-American Weekend at SIS.
Watch the video here.
Learn more about Gregory’s book.