The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design partnered with the LeBow College of Business to host “A View from the Top with Ali Velshi” Dec. 3 in Behrakis Grand Hall.
Students, faculty and alumni gathered to hear Velshi’s input on topics including the current economy, political controversy and broadcast journalism today. Velshi is CNN’s chief business correspondent and anchor of “Your Money” and “World Business Today” on CNN International.
Velshi articulated that between politicians and taxpayers, we as a nation lost the art of compromise. Issues such as the politicized fiscal cliff pinpoint areas in which politicians cannot reach an agreement. The viewers of media are bombarded with so much negative information that they cannot see the big picture.
“We [America] are innovating, we are manufacturing; we’re finding great, efficient ways to actually manufacture and sell things. America is a very innovative place. We’re just getting bogged down by all this talk of politics, and I’m really looking forward to 2013 and not endlessly talking about Washington,” he said.
He even challenged the popular view on taxes. “You can’t deal even partially with the debt based on taxing the rich. If you confiscate all the earnings of the wealthy in this country for the next 10 years, you’d actually only get to half where you need to get. So the bottom line is that probably taxes have to go up on everyone,” he said.
Tamika Boateng, a recent graduate of Drexel and current financial program manager at Vanguard, appreciated how Velshi was able to support his positions with facts.
“He was willing to share that he had an unpopular view on taxes, which was to tax everyone instead of just the top 2 percent. He went on to explain that by only taxing the top 2 percent of earners, we would not solve our federal deficit problems, and even worse, we could go over the fiscal cliff. He said a better solution would be to increase taxes on everyone. It’s not just about taxing the wealthy; it is about coming to a compromise on several factors that could prevent us from going over the fiscal cliff,” Boateng said.
Karen Curry, executive director of the Rudman Institute for Entertainment Industry Studies, organized the event by managing logistics and using an extensive network of alumni to promote it. Having worked as a correspondent for CNN with Velshi, she approached him about speaking at Drexel. She saw the need to bring in a true professional in the field because she thought it is “really important for students to meet with practitioners in the field that they think they want to go into. If they are exposed to people working into the field, through the experience they can learn what they truly want to do,” she said.
Curry also reached out to Cassandra Brown, assistant director of college relations at LeBow. Velshi’s broadcasts largely feature topics within economics and finance, making his talk relevant to both business and journalism students.
“Velshi is a wonderful example of someone that has patiently and intelligently worked his way to the top. I also think that it was interesting to hear that he had studied multiple disciplines in the past and has an avid interest in many different subjects,” Brown said.
She continued, “He carries the ‘jack of all trades’ mentality to the top of his field, and it works for him. He also mentioned that an important part of being successful is to surround oneself with other smart, successful people (as opposed to being threatened by them). I hope that the students were inspired to work hard to find that perfect job and that they also keep an open mind to new and unfamiliar opportunities.”
Curry also organized a personal dinner with eight students, four from Westphal and four from LeBow, who got the opportunity to meet with Velshi on a one-to-one basis.
“The students seemed to really enjoy it and embraced the opportunity to talk to him one to one. And Ali as well, he stayed for a long time after the event talking to people and students. With someone like Ali, so enthusiastic, so smart — it’s that kind of passion that’s so inspiring to students,” Curry said.
One student, Raheem Ghouse, a senior majoring in finance and economics, appreciated Velshi’s wealth of knowledge on the current economy.
“He seemed extremely candid and very eager to engage. I loved how positive he was about the state of affairs. Despite being in the middle of all the world’s problems, he was optimistic about oil, energy, technology, space travel, etc. We need him to talk about this stuff more often,” Ghouse said.
Velshi’s talk was not all business, however. When asked by a student if there was any value to the filler “viral cat videos” viewers sometimes see on news, he was able to tie in his subtle humor with his opinions on the broadcast journalism industry.
“While [CNN and other networks] would like to think that we are a public service, we are commercial enterprises. So we have to constantly do this juggling act between things that I think you should be listening to 24 hours a day (which would involve me being on TV for 24 hours a day) and things that are likely to get you to watch TV so you can stick around to see the things I really need you to watch. Do I think that there’s great news value in that? No, but it’s remarkable what people will watch,” Velshi said.