On April 6, the inaugural War Horse Symposium inspired millions of people to join a nationwide conversation about the human impact of military service, with bipartisan coverage spanning from legendary broadcaster Dan Rather and CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins to Sen. Marco Rubio and Jesse Watters of Fox News.
“The American military requires far more accountability,” Rather wrote in his column. “This is not exclusively a Republican issue or a Democratic one. …We can support our troops without blindly saluting the institutions they serve, and we fund. Indeed, insisting that our defense dollars be well spent is a form of support for our service men and women.”
The day-long symposium, hosted at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, brought together award-winning journalists and the senior leaders shaping the future of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The day started with remarks from legendary reporter Bob Woodward and included conversations with comedian Jon Stewart, Medal of Honor recipient Flo Groberg, and many others.
The War Horse Symposium represented a rare gathering where those government leaders and journalists agreed that military reporting is vital to U.S. national security, and addressing the greatest issues faced by veterans and military families. The symposium brought together more than 300 people on campus and featured exclusive, off-the-record student sessions with guest speakers, extending unprecedented access to dozens of emerging leaders. Read more about the student session, here.
“How we cover national security, and how we cover warfighting and how we cover veterans is a national security issue,” said Sec. Denis McDonough during his interview with The War Horse’s managing editor Kelly Kennedy about the future of VA healthcare. “We have a lot of obligations, but only one sacred obligation, and that’s to our vets. We just have to start seeing that as a cost of war.”
During the headliner interview, comedian Jon Stewart discussed a broad range of topics with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, from toxic exposure to declining national service, but the exchange that received the most attention from taxpayers focused on the Pentagon’s ballooning budget. She also spoke strongly about the role of journalism in U.S. democracy and our national security.
“The United States military is about defending the Constitution, and the free press is part of the Constitution,” said Dr. Hicks. “Any major institution hears hard truths, and the press helps bring that.”