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Colt says Americans should travel more

Colt talks with Carla Debbane '09 and Jazmin Acuna Cantero '11 after his presentation in Evans Hall.
Colt talks with Carla Debbane '09 and Jazmin Acuna Cantero '11 after his presentation in Evans Hall.

The first rule of reporting is never to take sides.

Veteran NBC journalist Ned Colt ’79 broke that rule when he spoke on campus during Fall Weekend.

One of his strongest assertions was that Americans need to travel more outside their borders in order to understand other cultures, telling the audience that it was “criminal “ that only 20 percent of Americans have valid passports.

“When you study in another culture, it’s a two-way street. You help others understand us as well.”

Colt joked that at NBC he usually had the benefit of teleprompters, but he was never at a loss for words as he responded to multiple questions from the audience.

Colt advised students and their parents to “Pursue dialogue, not antagonism. Learn why people think the way they do, even terrorists. Be passionate, but maintain a healthy dose of humility.”

Having met world leaders, covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and reported the news from hot spots across the globe, Colt said his career in international journalism did have a few discouraging moments. He received one of his worst assignments after a serious stint in Baghdad. He was dispatched to Heathrow in London to cover a breaking story: an airline had lost Lindsay Lohan’s luggage.

Based in Beijing, Hong Kong and London, Colt traveled to more than 80 nations as a foreign correspondent for NBC News from 1996 to 2009. He covered natural disasters and war zones and even was held hostage on one occasion.

But for all his travels, he hadn’t set foot on the campus of his alma mater for 30 years. Colt said that he’d been so thrilled to be coming back that he actually arrived a week early to an empty hall; he had the wrong date for his presentation. On Oct. 16, however, an audience of about 275 parents, students and alumni were there to welcome the former Fulbright scholar.

Noting that Colt’s B.A. is in theater studies, CISLA director Robert Gay, professor of sociology, said “Ned is a perfect example of the liberal arts in action.”

Colt earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and is teaching journalism at Boston University. His talk was sponsored by the College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts.

October 20, 2010