“Does anybody have a $5 bill?” former White House press secretary Mike McCurry P’13 asked Hamilton Program in Washington, D.C., students as they ate lunch in the conference room of Public Strategies Washington (PSW) where he is a partner.
It is unusual for buildings that old to have sky-lights, but in this particular room there was a large, slanted window covering almost an entire wall. That’s because the room was once the studio of famous Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. And the photo of President Abraham Lincoln on the $5 bill? It was taken in that very room.
PSW is a public affairs firm established in 1991 whose clients include AT&T, Edison Electric Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. McCurry provides counsel on communications strategies and management to corporate and non-profit clients.
Previously McCurry was press secretary to President Bill Clinton (1995-1998). He also served as spokesman for the U.S. Department of State and director of communications for the Democratic National Committee.
McCurry spoke with the students about the state of our governing system, and how he believed that the current college students’ generation would be the one to fix the parliamentary-style government created by the baby-boomers.
He also spoke about the prevalence of social media and the immediacy of news. When he was press secretary for Bill Clinton, McCurry said, “An intern would run to the local paper and grab a copy of the next day’s news around 10:30 p.m. so we knew what to expect.” There’s very little time to process news nowadays as well – which he pointed to as a downfall of the recent technological developments. It is almost impossible to absorb the news and critically analyze it, instead of eating up a 30-second sound bite.