After our Thursday morning Q&A session with Ms. N, some students in our class wanted to devise a “strategy” for how to approach Friday’s guest, Jonathan Pershing. A Google Doc was created, past interviews of Pershing were researched, and one of my classmates even asked me to explain my box analogy to the rest of our peers before Pershing arrived. There seemed to be a pervasive assumption that Jonathan Pershing would be as reticent as Ms. N was Thursday.
Initially, my classmates seemed hesitant to push Pershing, but it soon became clear that he was incredibly knowledgeable on all climate-related fronts—and that he was comfortable taking on just about any question.
As someone who enjoys over-analyzing how people say what they say, I found Jonathan Pershing to be one of the most fascinating guests we have had during this course.
The answers he gave as to where the US stands on critical issues (such as 1.5 degrees vs. 2 degrees) were just as uncompromising as those we received the day before. However, what Pershing did to make us comfortable and receptive to these answers was recognize the shortcomings in these positions. Instead of “disagreeing with the premise” of a challenging question, he would provide ten minutes of historical context, justify current decisions based on current and future constraints, and acknowledge that there may be tragic consequences due to those decisions.
In addition to exhibiting both a breadth and depth of knowledge, Pershing proved to be an excellent communicator. He drew upon countless anecdotes from his distinguished career to engage the audience. Pershing still had a box around what he could say and what he couldn’t, but he shed light on every corner of that box and let us know that he is aware of what is on the outside. We may not have received the answers we wanted, but we gained valuable perspective and insight as a result.
studying Political Science and Communication