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The Power of Words

Posted by Garrett Bergquist on September 12, 2008

Ours is a dangerous profession. Journalists can and do die because they refuse to bend to the will of autocrats. I just got back from the closing ceremony for the Centennial Celebration, which featured Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko and a specially commissioned poem, “The Lead Honorarium.” Mr. Yevtushenko read his poem with extraordinary feeling, and I was riveted by every word. His voice rang throughout the room, rising and falling with emotion, refusing to allow the listener to detach himself from the moment. When at last the emotional tour de force ended, the room erupted in applause, turning to a standing ovation as the poet took his seat. The poem mentions the names of several Russian journalists who have been murdered in the past decade for their decision to stand up to the Mafia or the Kremlin. Mr. Yevtushenko himself was considered extremely dangerous by the old Soviet state for his protests of anti-Semitism and other Kremlin policies. His piece is part eulogy, part defiance toward autocracy, and part warning of the danger of letting others control what you say and write. As an aspiring journalist and a news junkie, I knew exactly what Mr. Yevtushenko was talking about. The raw power of the poem almost moved me to tears, but it also galvanized my determination to continue my journalism training. Ours is a serious job. We truly are the bearers of the light, and journalism is a task not to be taken lightly.

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