Listen to an hour-long fireside chat between Governor Gretchen Whitmer and CNN Anchor Chris Wallace will focus on politics, public service, and the media, with opening remarks by University of Michigan President Santa Ono. March, 2023.
0:00:02.4 Lynette Clemetson: Good evening. Thank you all for joining us. I'm Lynette Clemetson, director of The Wallace House Center for Journalists. This public event is part of the series we call Democracy in Crisis, Views from the Press. It's an ongoing partnership between the Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy, the Wallace House Center for Journalists, and the UM democracy and Debate Program. The series features newsmakers and award-winning journalists, sharing their insights into the forces, threatening and protecting American democratic structures and systems. I wanna thank our partners at the Ford School and LS&A, because we've done so many good events through this program, special thanks to Ford School interim dean, Celeste Watkins-Hayes and seated right next to her LSA Dean, Anne Curzan. They are two of my closest partners at the University, and it's a real treat to be able to bring you all here together tonight for this event, in what's been a long and interesting series. We're especially pleased to be gathered here following the inauguration of the 15th President of the University of Michigan. And so to welcome you all tonight, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce President Santa Ono.
0:01:47.7 Santa Ono: Thank you very much. It's great to see all of you here in this beautiful venue, and thank you so much for that introduction, Lynette. And thank you all for joining us this evening. I'm so pleased that you're all here, since one of the most consequential, most essential things we can do as a university is to ensure that our students become engaged citizens and responsible committed leaders who are dedicated to the service of others. This goes back to our founding document, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which declared religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. If you walk past Angel Hall, you'll see that actually engraved just above those iconic columns. In today's stifling atmosphere of political tribalism and partisanship, it is so much more essential that we make every effort to safeguard our democracy through education, civic engagement, and well-informed debate and journalism, especially tough, fair-minded journalists such as Chris Wallace, have essential roles in this continuous work of informing, challenging and renewing. That engagement begins again this evening. And it is my pleasure to welcome to this stage at the University of Michigan, journalist Chris Wallace, and Michigan's governor Gretchen Whitmer. Please give them a round of applause.
0:04:09.5 LC: So we've got a lot to get through here this evening in a one-hour format. So I'm gonna make the introductions brief. I want to note that we're streaming tonight's event in partnership with Detroit Public Television, thank you to those who are following us on the stream, this evening, and toward the end of the hour at about 6:45, I'm going to come back up. We've asked students to submit questions in advance, we've selected some students who have put together some great questions for our guests this evening, and I'll come up to make sure we get that started toward the end. So to our guests for the evening. Chris Wallace is an anchor for CNN and host of Who's Talking to Chris Wallace, which you can also see on HBO Max. He's also a member of the Wallace House Family. I hope that most of you know that the Wallace in the Wallace House Center for Journalists comes from journalism icon of 60 Minutes fame, Mike Wallace, who was a 1939 graduate of the University of Michigan, and Chris Wallace is Mike's son. And Chris has an incredible and distinguished journalism career in his own right, spanning more than 50 years.
0:05:30.6 LC: He spent more than a decade at NBC News as Chief White House Correspondent, moderator of Meet the Press and anchor of NBC Nightly News. Followed by more than a decade at ABC News as chief correspondent and host. Before joining CNN, he was... Spent 18 years as anchor of Fox News Sunday. He's also a proud graduate of that school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that we refer to as the Michigan of the East. Joining Chris in conversation this evening is our very own Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and I said to her backstage, it's such a pleasure to have her here this evening on this International Women's Day. So pleased to have her here. Governor Whitmer is a lifelong Michigander and a proud Spartan, who earned a Bachelor's degree and a law degree from our friends at Michigan State. She spent time as a Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence in 2015 at the Ford School. Now, in her second term, she signed over 900 bipartisan bills and four balanced budgets, she counts among her accomplishments the largest education investments in state history, increases in on-campus mental health resources and expanding low or no-cost childcare and affordable high quality pre-K.
0:06:56.0 LC: So this tonight is a conversation. We wanted to hear them talk to one another, not a one-sided interview. So I'm going to turn it over now to Chris Wallace and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Thank you all.
0:07:18.4 Chris Wallace: I just wanted to say before I ask the governor my first question, I want to establish my bonafides here in Ann Arbor. I literally would not exist if it were not for the University of Michigan, because my father met my mother who were both students in the 1930s here at the University of Michigan. My father was a senior, my mother was a sophomore, they later got divorced and spend... What my great memory is for 50 years how much they hated each other. But they had two children and I was one of them, and I will say this that at one point, I don't know if this was out of spite, my mother said that one of the reasons that she married my father was because in those days, I don't know if it's still true, you had to pass a swimming test to graduate, and she didn't know how to swim, so she decided to marry my father. In any case, with that as a preview, I also have two children who went to the University of Michigan, so I'm...
0:08:25.7 Gretchen Whitmer: Well, then you gotta give me an opportunity to share with my friends... So spent a little time with the Ford School, which was amazing. And one of my students who I met at the Ford School is now the speaker of the house in Michigan. Yeah, first African-American speaker in state history. And I also have two children here, current, actually, current students here. And so if you can't be mother of dragons you can be the mother of wolverines. Right?
0:09:00.7 CW: So let's begin this conversation, and I'm gonna begin it on a subject of great importance, but a bit of a downer, governor, which is in the wake of the tragedy at the Michigan State, obviously the question of safety in schools, safety in campuses is of great concern all around the country, I'm sure, especially to the audience here, after it happened, you said this quote, "We're in a unique position to take action and save lives." So what are you gonna do?
0:09:34.7 GW: Well, first, let me say this, of all the tough stuff that I've had to navigate the last four plus years, and there's been a lot. Flooding events, to plots to a pandemic, it's just been one challenge after another, there's no question that the toughest days have been in the wake of the Oxford shooting at the end of 2021, and of course the... That shooting on Michigan State campus, and it is maddening that in this country and only in the US, the number one killer of young people is guns, we can and we must take action. And that's what I'm trying to do. Our legislature's in session right now, they are debating things like secure storage requirements, background checks, extreme protection orders, these are measures that can mitigate the likelihood of something like this happening again.
0:10:32.6 GW: You and I did an interview earlier, and you said, "Does that go far enough? Should we do more?" We need to keep working at this. But we gotta get started. And so this is the conversation that we're having right now at the State Capital, but it's also one that is mind-boggling polarizing in terms of politics, it was Republicans and Democrats and Independents, and people who don't identify with voting, who were worried about kids on campus, a couple of weeks ago when this was playing out, we've gotta find common ground, and I think part of why conversations like the one we're having is to do that to see the humanity in one another and to see what is possible if we work together, and I think it is our duty to pursue it.
0:11:22.3 GW: You have been in the forefront of so many political conversations as a journalist and as someone who is a thought leader in your own right, but who reports and investigates, and I'm curious from your vantage point as you're watching how people go to their corners on this particular issue, are there thoughts that you have in terms of covering the subject that we can learn from, or efforts that you see under way that have been successful that we can emulate? I'd just love to get your thoughts in terms of covering this horrible subject and how we can open up the lines of communication better in this country.
0:12:08.2 CW: I would love to say yes, I have an answer, and yes, I'm optimistic, but I'm frankly not especially optimistic, and it really goes, guns are certainly a clear and present danger and one of the great concerns, and like all of you... To turn on the news at night and see that there's been another mass shooting, whether it's at a school or a college or a workplace or just on the street, and the shocking thing is that it's not shocking and that we kind of expect it. When I first came to Washington as a reporter for NBC news in 1978, my first job was I covered the House of Representatives. And one of the things that very much impressed me, look, there were Republicans, there were Democrats, there was political disagreement. One of the things that impressed me was the ability of...
0:13:07.8 CW: The parties to get together then, and it was particularly true during the Reagan years in the 80s, and I covered the Reagan White House for six years. That things got done, problems got addressed. There was a crisis with Social Security in 1982, and Ronald Reagan appointed a commission and it included everybody, from Tip O'Neill, the very liberal Speaker of the House, from Massachusetts to Alan Greenspan, to some people on the conservative side, and they ended up passing a measure that ended up saving social security, ensuring its financial stability for another 20 or 30 years.
0:13:51.1 CW: Now we've got a problem again, I remember later in the 80s, they passed an Immigration Reform Bill that included amnesty for people who were in the country illegally, the cracked down on future illegal crosses, there was a major tax reform bill, the point is things got done, people... And Reagan used to say this, I'd much rather get 75% of the loaf, than nothing at all. And so people made compromises, it has seemed to me, and we can talk about why Governor, to be kind of the steady decline in the ability of our national leaders, and frankly the whole national discourse to try to settle problems rather than to go to your corners. And surround yourself with your tribe and like-minded people, and so is there an agreement? Is there a deal to be made on entitlement reform? Is there a deal to be made on immigration? Is there a deal to be made... Not necessarily, it would satisfy everybody on guns, but yes, there are deals to be made on sensible common sense, what is the percentage of people that support universal background checks? Which I think it's 98%, and we can't even get that to the congress, but it just seems that our politics has become so tribal, so polarized, so involved in people wanting to score points rather than achieve victories that I'm not especially optimistic about it.
0:15:32.9 CW: And which leads me to a question I wanted to ask you, which is, as I'm sure all of the crowd knows you were very much singled out for your role in the pandemic and imposing strict lock-downs only in the hope of saving people's lives, you weren't doing it for any partisan political reason, you thought this was the best science. And as a result of all of that, you were the target of bullying by the President, attacks by him, plots to kidnap you or worse, and do you see any possibility out there for lowering the temperature and creating a more positive political discourse?
0:16:24.2 GW: I'm trying... I have borne the brunt of a lot of frustration in the midst of the pandemic is expected, I knew it was gonna be tough when we started to really understand the enormity of the situation and how little information we had, and I fortunately had some great advice from experts here at the University of Michigan advising each of the efforts that I took to keep people safe, but I remember calling Vice President Pence and asking him if he could get the White House to turn down the temperature. As soon as I was targeted by President, we saw the Republican legislature start fighting me, start suing me, they starting... Try to take away my powers, sharing stages with people ultimately who were prosecuted and convicted of plotting to kidnap and kill me. It was really scary, and I asked everyone, we gotta turn down the temperature, someone's gonna get killed. And when you see the attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband, this is a part of what we've seen happen in recent years in this country, and I think your perspective is really helpful because I've been doing this for 20 years. So many of the students here are...
0:17:45.5 GW: Haven't even been alive, 20 years or just over, and so to have a little perspective that you think that the slide has been happening, but it feels so heavy and so volatile right now, and that's why I think every one of us has to do our part, whether it's office holders like me, people on both sides of the aisle have to take this on, I'm optimistic though, I still will make seat at the table for anyone who wants to solve a problem, you can call me every name in the book. I prefer a big wretch, but you can call me... I don't take any of it personally, I wanna solve problems, I wanna get things done. And we've had some success doing that. We've talked about the bipartisan work that I did in the last four years out of absolute necessity, and now that I've got a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, it is a slim majority, so it's still necessary to try to do as much in a way that brings people to the table into the conversation, but I think that we should all be alarmed and concerned by the violent rhetoric, the threats and the actions that people have taken to undermine our democracy to sow distrust in elections to pedal conspiracy theories.
0:19:10.0 GW: I think that we've seen such a fast proliferation of it in the last few years. I'm grateful that voters largely rejected that across the country in this last election, but I don't by any means think that it's behind us. I think that it continues to be a threat. I know that as an office holder, I have a role in every word I say. People scrutinize and might take it out of context or might, I said the time for thoughts, for just thoughts and prayers is over when I was talking about gun violence and that night, an infamous guy on a particular national channel said I was ridiculing people who pray. That's not what I was doing. I was saying, "Hey, pray, think, but we've got to act, too." And so I know I have a duty. What is the duty of journalists? What is the duty of the media in terms of what's happening in our democracy and the threats and the heat that continues?
0:20:14.1 CW: I think our role in the polarization and the vilification of the other side is enormous. I'm not sure whether we're following, and when I say we, I mean the business in general, but I don't know whether we're following what's going on in the public or mobilizing and stirring up what's going on in the public. I think it's probably a combination of the both, but there's no question, and as somebody who's been in cable news now at two channels since 2003, so 20 years, I think we play a big role. And Gosh, I'm thinking this is going to really be a depressing meeting we're having here. [laughter] Because the perception that some networks have made is get a base, appeal to that base, and it will be a good business model. And clearly, Fox has decided that they are going to play to the right wing, and MSNBC has decided they're going to play to the left wing and they tend to vilify the other side and pander, I think, to their side.
0:21:40.6 CW: CNN is in an interesting position because I think it's trying to move more towards the center and to be less on one side or the other and to play it more straight down the middle and the way I was brought up to believe in the news business and one of the questions I have, and I don't think, I don't have an answer for it, well I very much admire what CNN is trying to do, is whether or not it's a feasible and workable business plan. I have a friend who is involved in venture capital and venture capital in various media organizations and local startups. And so these people, she is a very distinguished journalist, and she was dealing with some of these investors, and they were saying, "Well, so what do you think would be a good media startup in a local market?" And she said, "Tell the news, tell it straight down the middle and just be honest and a source of trust," and one of the investors said, "I'm not sure the market rewards that." Well, that's a horrifying thing to say, but I'm not sure it's a wrong thing to say in terms of the news business.
0:22:58.3 CW: Business is one of the two words. I'm very fortunate having grown up as the son of my father. My feeling is that the truth is the truth. The truth is non-negotiable. Facts are not to be, not spinnable, the facts are facts, and that's the way I've always approached the news, and it's kind of an old-fashioned way, and it's gone to some degree out of fashion, but I've been able to sleep well at night, and I feel good about it, and but it's not the current, it's not the wave of where we're headed right now, and just as you talk about in politics, while I remain optimistic that in the end the truth will win out, I'm not, I'm not sure in the short run that it will.
0:24:00.4 CW: Governor, you had mentioned, and in our interview I talked to you about Big Gretch, which I love. I just think, I think it's such a great name, and frankly, I think you live up to it, which is a compliment, and because basically what it's saying is you don't take the ball. You're a straight shooter, and you're not going to be waylaid by the wrong things, and you're just going to press ahead. As you have pointed out, you won a sweeping re-election victory over a MAGA opponent by more than 10 points.
0:24:41.4 GW: Thank you. Thanks, thanks in large part to all the students on this campus that stayed in line for hours.
0:24:54.2 CW: You have a Democratic majority, as you pointed out slim, but a majority is a majority in both houses of the state legislature for the first time in 40 years, since what, 1983. So the question I have is, what are you going to do with all that power?
0:25:13.6 GW: Well, you know, I'll tell you this. Going into the election, the leaders in the Senate said, you know, if you get to 52 percent, we are going to flip the Senate, and I'm thinking, like every candidate does, I've got to get to 50 percent plus one vote, but we get to 52, and with all the volatility of the last couple of years, there were times where I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to earn re-election, and so then, when the hours after the polls closed, and we saw all these students standing on campus, waiting in line here and at Michigan State and campuses across our state getting registered and voting, as polls closed, and they started, the results started to come in, and they said, "We flipped the Senate," I was like, "Oh, the opportunity, like I'm so excited," and then at 5:20, I got the text saying, "We flipped the House too." I don't think I slept for three days. [laughter] I was prone to breaking into sporadic bursts of maniacal laughter like. [laughter]
0:26:12.0 CW: I'm glad that was after the election, Governor.
0:26:20.6 GW: Yeah. No Howard Dean moment. But because it's, but I also met right with both caucuses, and I said, I don't want to hear anyone say mandate. We have a two-seat majority. This is an affirmation that we're fighting for the right things, and that's what we are going to live our values in this administration in this upcoming term. Today, I'm so pleased to tell you that our legislature passed a bill to include the LGBTQ community in our civil rights law.
0:27:03.3 GW: We have been fighting for this for decades. It has been a long, torturous fight. We want it today. They're also having debate around some of these common sense gun policies to keep our campuses and communities safer. There's a lot of work that is happening. I signed a billion-dollar tax relief package earlier this week to give working people and retirees some tax relief. I mean, we're not even 60 days in, and these guys are cranking out the policy that we ran on, and so I'm excited about that.
0:27:40.6 GW: I'm going to continue to work my tail off to make sure that we can make space at the table for the Republicans. They're still, I think, trying to figure out what life is all about now that they're experiencing the minority for the first time. A lot of feelings. It's okay. But, it's important that we live the values that we ran on. We told people we're going to do these things, and now we're going to do them and show that that's why you elected us, and given the opportunity to lead, we're going to live up to the moment. So I'm excited about this. I'm also, I know how to count, so we lose one or two seats, and that majority is gone, so we've got to be really strategic and smart about what we do and try to do as much as we can in a bipartisan way. But when we can't find those votes, we're going to continue to live our values and do what we told the public we're going to do. So it's really exciting. I never dreamed. I served in the legislature for 14 years, Chris, I was in the minority the whole time.
0:28:48.5 GW: When I left, I thought, "I'm done with this." And I actually came and taught at the Ford School, and that's when I got my excitement back, when I got fired up about public policy, being around young people who were engaged. And when I tell you that Speaker Joe Tate, I met him in my class at the Ford School, and now he's the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Michigan, and I'm the governor, and we are partners and we're working together, but the first time I met him was on this campus. And so I come here with a sense of optimism and excitement because of what's happening in Lansing right now, because of what's happening on this campus every day, and what we saw in the outcome of the election, not my victory, but the turnout and the rejection of efforts to undermine the democracy. I am optimistic. But I'm sober about it, you know, I don't have my head in the clouds, I don't think everything's perfect now that we've gotten past this election. We got a lot of hard work to do in this country, and we got to fight to protect this democracy every single day.
0:29:50.9 GW: I'm curious, you've covered a lot of different administrations and a lot of different personalities and organizations, what was your favorite White House to cover and why? And what makes a good, how does an office holder build mutual respect and rapport but also take on journalism that they don't think is accurate or fair? Asking for a friend. [laughter]
0:30:23.4 CW: There was only one White House, I mean, I've covered White Houses in the sense that I've been there and I've reported on them, but there is only one White House where I actually was the White House correspondent in the '80s. Under Ronald Reagan, I was the chief White House correspondent for NBC News. And that is by far still till today my favorite administration, and I think the kind of model for an administration. And this is, I'm not talking about their policies and whether I like their policies or not. If you're the reporter covering a White House, that to the degree possible, you shouldn't factor in your reporting on what they're doing. But they were... They had a vision, and they had a plan to execute it, and they succeeded in executing it. And one of the things that, as a reporter, you admire is competence in a politician and their ability to achieve their goals, and Reagan and his team were really quite remarkable in that. I was fortunate enough to cover his run for president in 1980 against Jimmy Carter, and it was the best campaign I ever covered.
0:31:47.3 CW: They had a plan each day for what the headline was going to be, and it was organized around having events at spots with backdrops to dramatize that story and make that point. He had a clear agenda. Again, I'm not saying whether I agreed with it or not, which was really irrelevant, I was reporting on it, but of shrinking the size of government, of rolling back some of the regulation, of strengthening defense, restoring America's position in the world. This was during the Iran hostage crisis and not that long after Vietnam when Americans kind of felt bad about themselves, and he went about achieving it. And so, I guess what I'm really saying is that I admired the sheer professionalism of it. You talk about dealing with the media, and our job isn't to be friends, and it is an adversarial relationship, and not opponents, but and not even critics, but they're trying to get their story out, and we're trying to put their story in context, and to the degree that there is, and I'm sure this doesn't go on with you in Lansing, Governor, but that a governor or a president who is trying to put the best face on on something, it's our job to try to hold them to account.
0:33:25.9 CW: And I had plenty of run-ins with people in the Reagan administration, but there was a professionalism about it, and there was an understanding that we were doing our job, they were doing their job, that maybe they didn't like the story as I told it on nightly news today, but that I didn't have any vested interest in either their success or their failure. I was just trying to report the facts, and I think they took it that way, and the next day was another day, and they were going to deal with us. So, they really, the Reagan administration really stood out for me. There have been a series of administrations that I have admired, but that was clearly on a variety of levels. Having a clear mission, having a plan to execute it, succeeding in executing it, the professionalism of their relationships with the media and the Hill, they were impressive. They were very impressive, no question about it.
0:34:26.7 GW: What was the least impressive administration? [laughter]
0:34:31.5 CW: Well, let me just say this, incidentally, that you're not allowed to ask two questions in a row.
0:34:38.4 GW: All right. I'll save it for my next one then.
0:34:40.8 CW: You're acting like a reporter, for God's sake, and that's not a compliment. Well, that was the thing about the Trump administration that was, that was so shocking, is that they just... It was in February of 2017, so it was literally less than a month after Trump took office that he tweeted out that... And he talked about specific news organizations. He didn't say the media, but he said the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, CNN, basically all of the leading news organizations in America were the enemy of the people. And I found that so distressing. I don't have any problem, as I say, I've been chewed out by politicians and politicians, press secretaries and stuff, and we're big boys. We throw hard balls, they throw hard balls, that's fine, it's the game. But to characterize the media as the enemy of the people, it's interesting, I've got to be close friends with a fellow named William McRaven. He was an admiral, he was a Navy SEAL for 37 years. He was the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, and he was the man who led the operations, oversaw the operations to capture Saddam Hussein and to kill Osama bin Laden.
0:36:13.3 CW: I mean, if you look at the word dictionary, the word patriot in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of Bill McRaven there. Interestingly enough, he became the chancellor at the University of Texas. He had taken, talk about somebody who was on the wrong path before he became a SEAL, he was a journalism major at the University of Texas. But anyway, fortunately, he became a defender of America, but he was teaching a class the day after that came out, and he said that in all of this years as a Navy SEAL, all of this years opposing Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and real threats, he said that that comment by Donald Trump was the biggest threat to democracy in his lifetime. And I think that's right.
0:37:00.5 CW: And so much of what went on in that administration I was troubled by, but the attempt to demonize the media, and it was done for a very cynical reason. The reason it was done is if you can demonize the media, you're able to, in effect, try to discount and devalue them when they criticize you. Well, you know, who cares what they think, because they're our enemy. So it was a really deeply cynical thing and very troubling. You said something very interesting in your State of the State speech in January that I wanted to ask you about, and you was, you've kind of referred to it when you were talking about the bill on LGBTQ and all those rights that was passed by the legislature today. You said that Michigan will fight for your freedoms, and then you said that you would go to any other state that and to represent that Michigan is a more hospitable place for them to live and for them to do business, and you specifically called out Indiana and Ohio.
0:38:11.7 GW: We all pick.
0:38:12.0 GW: On Ohio here, right?
0:38:18.1 CW: Well, that does have a little bit more relevance after the last two years of the Ohio State game. Yes, it does indeed. God, I love that. Seeing us Vito, Ohio State, man.
0:38:28.8 GW: Hey, this Spartan was thrilled as well. I gotta tell you.
0:38:32.8 CW: I have to say, it's been a long, it was a long way to get there, but yes, but what did you mean when you, you know, not only talked about, I understand fighting for the rights and the freedoms of people in the state of Michigan, but basically saying you're gonna go after people in other states.
0:38:48.5 GW: Well, we're competing with the rest of the country to land investment, to draw talent into Michigan. And I gotta tell you, as you know, a mom of two students are gonna be making decisions about where they wanna build their lives. We were looking... Last spring at the possibility of Michigan going from being a pro-choice state to having one of the most extreme laws on the books in the country overnight because of the SCOTUS decision. And that's why I filed my lawsuit. That's why I worked so hard to protect rights. That's why I planned Parenthood and ACLU collected signatures and put it on the ballot before the people. My concern is not just for my kids, but for everyone in the generation who is gonna be impacted by this. You gotta be able to make your own decisions about your life and the trajectory of your life.
0:39:40.9 GW: That's why the Elliott Larsen bill that they passed today is so important. Young people and talent across, around the globe wants to be in places where they can live their true selves and be prosperous and successful and respected and protected under the law. And that's why winning the reproductive rights fight at the ballot this fall was such a big deal. That's why this Elliott Larsen work that the legislature is completed today, and I'll be signing into law in the next week or so, is so important. We want young people and talented people of all ages. We want people to know Michigan is a place where you can live a great quality of life a low cost of living, and have all the rights that every human being should expect. That's what we're fighting for in Michigan. And that's a powerful story to tell us.
0:40:36.4 GW: I look at Eli Lilly, who when Indiana stripped away reproductive rights, they said, "We're not going to continue investing in Indiana." I thought this is an opportunity for us, but we gotta win both of these fights. And as of today, I can say we have won both of those fights, and this is gonna be a powerful additional tool in addition to phenomenal institutions of higher learning, right? President Ono to 20% of the world's fresh water to... On and on the great things that we have to offer. This is really important, and I wanna go into pitch Michigan into companies that are in states that are anti-choice or anti LGBTQ rights. I wanna make sure that young people understand what we have to offer here. And this is gonna be an additional thing that we have in our arsenal that makes Michigan so great.
0:41:30.4 CW: So I, you broke the rule and asked me two questions in a row. We got two minutes left, and I think this is gonna be of real interest to the audience here, which is that you signed a bill, a bipartisan bill last year, setting up the Michigan Achievement Scholarship. So explain to the students here in the audience how some of them can benefit from that.
0:41:53.7 GW: Well, [laughter] it actually applies to students who are graduating high school this year. [laughter]
0:42:00.4 CW: It doesn't go for it.
0:42:00.5 GW: No.
0:42:03.6 CW: Well, that bill sucks. [laughter]
0:42:12.3 GW: Hey, if I had a decent legislature last cycle would've helped all of you too.
0:42:16.4 CW: But it allows them to go to college.
0:42:18.4 GW: Yes. So, okay. It is addressing the financial barrier that keeps so many people from pursuing skills, whether it's in community college or university. They're we know how much it costs to attend these institutions. And so doing our part to try to bring down that cost for students in addition to the FAFSA, I'm still working on pronouncing that right? We're bringing down the cost for a lot of students, so we're creating a lot of opportunity. Michigan's got the promise here that, which has helped bring down costs. We've got a lot more work to do across the state, but, this has been a real focus. Qualified, exceptional workforce is something we've always boasted here. We gotta be able to make sure that we can continue to do that. We need people in a variety of disciplines, whether they're social workers, whether they're going into teaching or into medicine. There is great need in all fields, and that's why we gotta level these barriers for people.
0:43:19.8 Speaker 5: Hey, Big Gretch, you have the power to stop the Grayling expansion. Stop Camp Grayling. Stop Camp Grayling.
0:43:28.3 LC: So that's a good place to transition to our questions. First of all, the time went much too fast. [laughter] I knew an hour was gonna go by quickly, but one of the reasons that Wallace House does these events is because you can just see the power of in-person engagement. And we really want, as journalists and as an organization that, that really believes in engagement and civil civic debate to be able to get students and members of our community up from their devices and into spaces like this where we can talk about things together. And so we asked some students to put together some questions. I think I see our first student questioner here. Is it Philip Quanta?
0:44:22.1 Philip Quanta: Yes, ma'am.
0:44:23.9 LC: Why don't you stand up, say your name your affiliation at the university, and then you can go ahead and we'll pass it on through the five students.
0:44:32.6 PQ: Yes, ma'am. Hello, I'm Philip Quanta a cognitive science major at the School of LSA here. I'm a research assistant for the Institute of Firearm and Injury Prevention from Michigan Medicine. And our focus is in proven mental health of young people who've experienced gun violence and other form of violence like throughout our state. I was wondering, governor Whitmer, what is your approach to addressing continuous violence that occurs in Michigan communities and also, especially through our young people?
0:45:01.9 GW: Well, thank you for the question and I'm...
0:45:04.7 PQ: Yes, ma'am.
0:45:06.1 GW: I'm grateful that you're in the program that you're in. I think it's gonna be really important that we've got a strategy to address the mental health aspects that we're all confronting. We know that mental health is an issue pre covid, but it's been exacerbated by the pandemic, the isolation, the loneliness, the despair that people have fault over the years, and the anxiety about not being able to control or know kind of what's around the bend. And we've made record investments in rebuilding our mental health system in this state. The governor before the governor, before the governor before me, made some decisions and they eviscerated our mental health system, closed all the mental health hospitals, put people out on the street that had devastating impact, and we've never recovered from it.
0:45:55.5 GW: What we have tried to do is wrap our kids, especially in K-12 settings with support so that they can have the assistance to get back on track. We have put money into building the first psychiatric hospital in Michigan in decades. We are trying to incentivize people into going into mental health fields from social workers to psychologists to psychiatrists and counselors. I mean, this is a huge need and we need more people who pursue this profession. So there's a lot of work being done around mental health generally, when it comes to gun violence. I think that the steps that the legislature is poised to be taking, I'm hoping they're taking these votes right now or some point today, I think is a step toward addressing gun violence. But, gun violence, it's not just the mass events that you train for your generation on, sadly, has had to train for over and over again that we saw play out in Oxford and in the East Lansing a few weeks ago.
0:47:05.8 GW: It happens every single day in this country, every single day in this state. This is the biggest threat to young people right now in this country, is gun violence in combination with a mental health crisis. We can see how serious this moment is, and that's why I say we're not just going to think about it or pray about it. We're gonna take action, and we're on the precipice of taking some substantive action. It will not fix the problem. We've got a lot more work to do, but it's something that I welcome him. I'm grateful for partnership. As we address this, and I would invite you to jump in with us and where you think there are opportunities or voices that aren't being heard or needs that aren't being met. I'm interested in pursuing all the facets to gun violence that your generation, sadly has trained for, for a long time and has been surrounded by it is the most horrible thing to think about the students on this campus, on campuses across our state who felt so personally, what played out on a campus 70 miles from here because this is a part of your lives. And it's horrible that that's the case. And I'm gonna do everything that I can to try to mitigate that.
0:48:34.8 Shannon Stocking: Hi, thank you both for being here today. My name is Shannon Stocking. I'm a junior at LSA studying English and communications, and I'm one of the co-editor in Chiefs at the Michigan Daily. My question is for you Chris Wallace, and of course, Big Gretch if you have anything else to add, [laughter] please feel free to. In recent years, we have seen a growing trend of attacks on the press, as has come to the forefront with the dominion voting, depositions, credibility of news organizations themselves, all forces that undermine the credibility of journalism. What steps can journalists and news org organizations take to protect the integrity of the free press?
0:49:12.8 CW: I had a feeling I was gonna get asked this question. Look, nothing, as somebody who got into the news business to report and to tell the truth and to try to inform and to educate people, nothing could be more contradictory to what it is that my view of the media, my view has always been, I just want to tell what's going on and try to put some perspective on it. And the frankly, the question of whether or not you, like the news doesn't matter to me. Whether it's, whether you... I'm, I just wanna tell you, there used to be a long before you were all born a show a detective show called Dragnet, and the detectives would come in and say, just the facts, ma'am, just the facts.
0:50:08.4 CW: And that's my view of our job is to just tell the facts. So the idea that you would skew the news to try to tell your audience what they want to hear or be afraid of telling them the truth because you're worried that that's gonna turn them off, is just not the way that makes sense to me. Obviously it's a business plan and obviously it's working, but there have been very disheartening revelations in the last month or so. Not totally surprising, but shocking nonetheless. And one just hopes that, I'm not sure I'm particularly confident in this, that people will react to it in a way, ultimately of projecting that and saying whether I like it or not, tell me what's really going on. And I left Fox 14 months ago, and that's part of the reason for it, because my... As I say, facts are facts. They're non-negotiable. The truth is the truth. And just tell that and let the chips fall where they may.
0:51:33.4 Officer Williams: Good evening. Governor Whitmer. Mr. Wallace, thank you for joining us. My name is Officer Williams. I'm a master student with the School of Information. And I have a question for you Both, recent state and national elections have highlighted the influence of social media platforms in swaying the opinion of voters. What advice would you give young adults and first time voters about separating fact from fiction on social media?
0:52:00.0 GW: We looked at each other. I guess it's a good, it's a wonderful question. I think one of the challenges for people like me is how do we communicate in a way that is accurate and persuasive and accessible? I have a TikTok account, and the reason I have it is because so many of you are on TikTok, right? So where you get a lot of your information, now I have it on a device that is attached to nothing else. One device devoted to TikTok because it's a communications tool, and we've gotta have cybersecurity, and we know the real threats of how social media is being used and how the information is being utilized as well. I also know that there are, I do think that Congress has an important role in terms of ensuring that accurate information is being disseminated, the way that it is being curated to feed into someone's current interests.
0:53:03.4 GW: And then to abuse that power of having that intelligence, I think is really dangerous. It is part of what matriculated into the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol, the pervasive misuse of people's information and dissemination of inaccurate material. I think poses a real current threat to our democracy. And I as great a proponent as I am of free speech and access, I've got real concerns about how social media promoters are misusing it and hurting people with it. So I don't know that that's a great, so I haven't given you a great solution, but I have a lot of concern and anxiety around what is happening around social media. It can be a great tool, but it also is incredibly dangerous.
0:54:03.1 CW: I would just add a couple of things to that, that I think you need to put, I think you should be very skeptical about something you read online. I mean, with knowing about all the disinformation, knowing about all the bots, there are a lot of people who have a vested interest in leading you in the wrong path. So, not just, there are different news organizations, but I would tend to put my faith in an organization that exists that whether it's a newspaper or a television network or whether there's that it's an institution that they have a potential. I know that Dominion raises questions about this, but that they have a vested interest in having some form of accuracy and that there's an editorial process. The other thing I would say is that in this world where there is so much information and misinformation, I think that you have to be an educated consumer of news.
0:55:12.4 CW: And in that sense I... My feeling is get your news from more than one source. If you like the front page of the New York Times read the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. If you like the news on NBC maybe you watch a newscast on Fox or something, and almost like a GPS system to kind of triangulate and see the different ways in which stories are being portrayed. In the end, it's up to you to make up your own mind. Don't follow to blindly something you read somewhere, particularly if you have no idea about the credibility or even the honesty of this source of information, because there are a lot of people who are very much directed towards misleading you.
0:56:13.2 Caroline Sweeney: My name is Caroline Sweeney. I'll be graduating next month with the Master of Public Affairs from the Ford School. My question is, there's an ever widening divide between media, public institutions and voters, which means information is getting lost in the space left behind. How are we as future change makers, leaders, and public servants supposed to contend with an increasingly skeptical untrusting American public?
0:56:39.4 CW: Yes, Caroline.
0:56:39.6 GW: I took the last one first you got this one, [laughter]
0:56:45.2 CW: Well, it's a good question. I mean it is astonishing to me when you see the percentage of Americans, and I don't know if is it's is it a third? Is it 40%, 30%, 25%? It's a large percentage who still don't believe that the election in 2020 was fair. And that I think that it's over a majority of Republicans don't believe that Joe Biden was the legitimately elected president. And that's what could be more threatening to our democracy. I remember in the 2016, I moderated the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And one of the questions that ended up being the big headline that came out was Trump at that time was saying that the election was rigged. And I specifically asked him, "Will you recognize the results of this election?"
0:57:45.5 CW: And he said, "I'll keep you in suspense." And I responded to that by saying, "The idea of the peaceful transfer of power is one of the basic tenets of our democracy. And are you saying you're not gonna commit to that?" And he repeated, "I'll let you know. I'll keep you in suspense." Well, that's very, I mean, it strikes at the very core of our democracy when, and when you have a wide section of the country it's so interesting. I was thinking about the 1960 election. You say, what the hell was he thinking about the 1960 election [laughter]? But I was the other day, and if you know, this was the Kennedy Nixon election in '60, and there is real reason to believe that that election was stolen.
0:58:40.4 CW: Because, if you go back and look at it, there was particularly in two states, Texas, where Lyndon Johnson, who was running for vice president, but particularly in Illinois, where Richard j Daley was the mayor, there's some reason to believe that he waited and saw how many downstate votes there were. And then he piled in some votes that maybe didn't exist in Chicago and ended up carrying the state for Kennedy. And there was a real move at that point because there was real concern about it to people went to Nixon and who was the vice president, but was running for president and said to him, "You could contest this election and we could litigate what went on in Illinois and Texas." And he said, "Look, we're in the middle of the Cold War. It would be too damaging for the country."
0:59:33.2 CW: "It may well be true, but I'm gonna accept the results of this election and I'm gonna concede the election to John F. Kennedy." How far we have come from that today? And again, I don't know that I've got a direct answer for you, but somehow, I mean, part of it is you've got some people in public life right now who seem to be hellbent in trying to destroy people's faith and confidence in institutions like the news media, like democracy, like the peaceful transfer of power. It's a poison in our society, and I'm not sure how you extract it, but I'm sure that Governor Whitmer does know how you're gonna extract it.
1:00:20.8 GW: This isn't the gonna answer all the ills that we are confronting, but I do think that education is really important, whether it is the critical thinking skills that you were alluding to in your response earlier, to understanding social media and what you can take and how do we address the gap, but also civics, right? You know what's amazing to me, when someone immigrates to this country, they know more about the United States government than most people that were born here. They can tell you more about our institutions, our history. And I do think that that is a place where there is a real need for us to do more, to prepare the American public with critical thinking skills, with a reverence for our history and understanding of our civics in this country. And also I think that it's, we have to fight efforts to dumb down curriculums that are happening across this country. We're doing the next generation a huge disservice if they don't get accurate education about this country's history and who we are and what the challenges are in front of us, and how our systems of government work. There are people who get elected to office who don't understand how the system of government in the office, they just ascended to work. And that I think is, represents an additional threat that is related to everything we've been talking about tonight. So that's a part of what I think we need to do better as a country.
1:02:02.5 LC: So I think that was the perfect question.
1:02:03.0 Speaker 5: [1:02:03.0] ____ Against Northern Wetland, will you pledge to stop the expansion of Camp Grayling.
1:02:09.8 GW: I under... I hear what you're saying. I am familiar with the subject. I'm not in a position to respond to you tonight, but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me tonight. Thank you.
1:02:29.1 LC: Thank you for that answer, governor. And I think the last question that we had was a perfect question to end on in your responses. And I wanna make sure that you two know, and all of you here know this event came together rather quickly. And one of the things we were worried about when we were announcing the event was that it was happening during the university's spring break, and we really wanted students to be the bulk of the audience here. And so we did a push that specifically went to student students first and I'm like do students check their email during spring break. We did that last Wednesday at noon, and within three hours, all of the tickets were gone primarily by students. And so I know that we didn't have, there were some points of the discussion tonight where we couldn't express full optimism, who could. But as you mentioned, the students who were lined up down the block on election night here. And as we saw the students who are turning out for our events and the students who want to come into public space and talk about policy, talk about the role of journalism and media and society, talk about public service, I think you all deserve a round of applause.
1:04:09.9 LC: And to all of you, thank you for coming tonight. Chris Wallace, governor Gretchen Whitmer, this was such a wonderful conversation. Thank you for joining you.