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March 31, 2010 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - 7A

From Page 1A
national political action committee
that trains LGBT leaders to hold
political positions in the govern-
ment and across the country. Vic-
tory Fund also helped Armstrong
- who interned with the commit-
tee last summer - in his MSA cam-
paign, he said.
Armstrong cited that Detroit
City Council President Charles
Pugh, another openly gay poli-
tician, also worked with Vic-
tory Fund. Armstrong said Pugh's
political success inspired him and
proved that he could lead a similar
Gabe Javier, Armstrong's self-
proclaimed mentor and assistant
director at the University's Spec-
trum Center, said Armstrong's
esteemed position as MSA presi-
dent will have a large effect on the
campus as a whole. He said Arm-
strong's election win is a "proud
moment" for the University and
has important implications for the
LGBT community to have such rep-
"I have high confidence that
Chris is going to represent the
interests of all students," Javier
said. "This is an important time for
Javier said Armstrong is a great
role model for every student who is
struggling to find his or her iden-
"It's really great to have a role
model like Chris out there who can
show that it's possible to be a stu-
dent leader and be out and be suc-
cessful.as a gay person," he said.
Javier said the University isn't
the first university in the Big Ten to
have an openly gay student govern-
ment president. In 2006, Ohio State
University elected an openly gay
student to serve as the school's stu-
dent government president.
Armstrong said his new position
has been an amazing feat for the
LGBT community.
"I think that personally, it's a big
From Page 1A
like a crapshoot."
Robinson said he was sitting
with his wife on his patio when
Fred Hiatt, the editorial page edi-
torofthePostcalled to tellhimthat
the paper won a Pulitzer for 2008
forhis columns.
As he sat on his back porch fid-
dling with small sticks that fell off
the trees outside his home, Robin-
son described the moment when
he found out he had won the prize,
calling it "an out-of-body experi-
ence." Robinson added that he was
doubly lucky because he won the
Pulitzer for covering a story with
such huge historical implications.
"In quieter moments it felt like
you were watching something
really important," Robinson said
of covering the election. "You were
learning a lot about the country
and the country was learning a lot
about itself. You almost couldn't
make this stuff up."
"(The 2008 presidential elec-
tion) was the best political story
certainly I'll ever cover, maybe the
best story nil ever cover and there
were many stories I thought were
huge and were hugely important,"
he said.

In fact, Robinson began his
career covering one of the most
talked about stories of the 1970s.
As a reporter for the San Fran-
cisco Chronicle, Robinson said
he got a ticket to the "incredible"
trial of Patty Hearst, the heiress of
publishing millionaires, who was
kidnapped by the Symbionese Lib-
eration Army.
"I was the junior reporter on the
Patty Hearst trial, which essential-
ly meant I got to carry the handbag
of the granddame Carolyn Ans-
backer who was the Chronicle's
trial reporter," Robinson said. "She
was a great lady. She chain smoked
unfiltered camels, I think they
After covering city politics at the
Chronicle for a few years, Robinson
applied for a job at The Washington
Post and received an unexpected
call from the Post's metro editor at
the time.
"I got a phone call from some-
one who claimed to be Bob Wood-
ward and I almost didn't believe it
at first, but it was Bob Woodward,"
Robinson said.
Robinson cut his teeth at the
Post covering the first term of Mar-
ion Barry, a figure so well-known in
Washington that some still call him
the city's "mayor for life."
Barry was elected mayor in 1978
in a three-way race and was only
the second person to be elected
to the position - Washington had
been given the right from Congress
to govern itself less than ten years
Barry went on to serve three
consecutive terms as mayor and
was reelected a fourth time, even
after being arrested on cocaine
Tom Sherwood, who co-

accomplishment for the LGBT com-
munity on campus," Armstrong
said, adding that his willingness to
express his identity motivated him
to run in the election.
Armstrong said he wants to
inspire students, especially fresh-
men, to have hope that they can
hold a position of power despite
their background or identity.
Armstrong said his identity
would play a role in making MSA
more "welcoming" to the entire
student body.
"Regardless of what community
you are from, you canbecome a stu-
dent leader that is leading 40,000
students," he said.
Javier echoed Armstrong's com-
ments, and said Armstrong's role in
MSA sets a new precedent for Uni-
versity students.
"Chris is a good example of
someone whose identity is impor-
tant, and only one important aspect
of him," Javier said. "I hope that it
encourages other students to see
themselves as student leaders and
be out in all of their identities."
Armstrong said that he hopes
his position will make University
administrators take MSA more
"I think that it will make MSA
more legitimate in the eyes of the
administration," he said. "(Being
elected as MSA president could)
make administrators and even the
regents and maybe the state legisla-
tors recognize MSA as a body that
can really inspire hope within the
student body at large."
Armstrong said he hopes that
if different bodies take MSA more
seriously, MSA representatives will
feel like their work in the assembly
is worthwhile.
"In terms of the culture of MSA,"
Armstrong said, "this will make the
representatives feel that the proj-
ects they are taking on will have
more leverage at the University."
Armstrong said his identity
would not be the main focus of his
presidency, though it is still a cen-
tral part of his life. He said this is
the reason his sexual orientation
authored "Dream City: Race,
Power and the Decline of Washing-
ton D.C.," said Robinson covered
Barry during a time when resi-
dents had high hopes for the city's
future. Sherwood, the local politi-
cal reporter for Washington's NBC
affiliate, said though the Post's
editorial board endorsed Barry, his
relationship with the paper was
"(The Washington Post's) edito-
rial page is very influential on what
happens - people follow it very
closely," he said. "But on the other
hand people felt like The Wash-
ington Post and the business com-
munity did things irrespective of if
they were helpful of the black com-
Sherwood said this put Robinson
in a tough position as the Post's city
hall reporter who also happened to
be black. He said Robinson often
faced criticism from both black and
white readers who claimed he was
being too friendly to the mayor or
not friendly enough.
"He had to walk the tight rope
between what community people
felt about the news media and what
he needed to report," Sherwood
said of Robinson.
Robinson described Barry as "a
fascinating character," and added
that covering the mayor was a great
job because his byline was often on

the front page. But Robinson also
said he could feel the "constant ten-
sion" between the newspaper and
the Barry administration.
"This was a black government
and The Washington Post was this
kind of elite white institution and
so I was kind of the ambassador
from one group to the other in a
sense," he said. "(Barry) used the
Post as sort of a foil and sometimes
it could be a fairly contentious rela-
After spending a few years cov-
ering Barry, Robinson said he got
"tricked" into becoming the paper's
city editor.
Robinson spent a few years "at
the desk" and then finally got his
escape. In 1988, Robinson and his
family packed up and moved to
Cambridge, Mass. for the academic
year where he studied Latin Amer-
ican history and politics, as part of
Harvard University's Nieman Fel-
lowship in Journalism.
During his time at Harvard, the
position of South American bureau
chief became available - Robinson
took the job, and enrolled in what
he called an "instant conversation-
al Spanish course," to get ready for
the position.
Robinson moved to Buenos Aires
and was responsible for covering
all of South America for four years,
an experience he called "life trans-
"Living overseas I really believe
changes the way you see things in
this country in that it exposes you
to people and societies that have
somewhat different ideas about
things we take for granted," he
Robinson stayed abroad in Lon-
don for another two years and then

Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong an,
Raymond lead their first MSA meeting yesterday.

didn't come up a lot during the
"It defines what kind of leader
I am, and it defines who I am, but
that doesn't mean that I only repre-
sent that community," Armstrong
During the beginning of his cam-
paign Armstrong said he wanted
to be president to shed more light
on the "legitimacy" of the LGBT
community, but toward the end,
he realized he was campaigning to
represent the entire student body
- not only students who identified
with him.
Armstrong said without the
University, his identity would have
never driven him to be the political
activist he is today.
"The support structure - the
sense of feeling thatyou're a part of
something - that has really guided
me in each step and each year," he
said. "Without that support struc-
ture, I would never be in this posi-
The newly-elected president said
his involvement with the Spectrum
Center and the LGBT community
makes his future in MSA even more
returned to Washington to become
editor of the Post's Style section,
where he stayed for six years.
"(Editing the Style section) was
a great job because you got to run
your own alternative newspaper
within the newspaper," Robin-
son said wearing gym shorts and
a t-shirt to deal with the humid
Robinson said it was working all
over the world and in multiple sec
tions of the Post that made it easy
for him to transition to writing his
column in 2005.
"I had thought for some time
that it would be really interest-
ing to do a column and I thought
I could do it," he said. "So when I
started doing it, it just really felt -
easy is not the right word - but it
felt natural and it felt right."
"I was happy to have started
doing the column after having had
all these other jobs and been all
these other places," he said. "And
every time I sit down to write
including this morning for tomor-
row's paper, I'm happy that I have
- what am I saying - am I actually
saying I'm happy that I'm old? Well
kind of. But I'm happy that I had so
many varied experiences soI don't
get stuck for something to say."
According to Hiatt, the editorial
page editor of the Post, Robinson's
wide range of experiences is only
part of what he brings to the page.
"He has this great facility of
making readers feel as if he's talk-
ing to them, as if they know him
and to know him is to like him,"
Hiatt said. "He can take on the
most serious issues, and he does so
frequently, from torture to war to
politics, but never loses that con-
nection with his readers, including
me, and never loses that sense that
readers have of wanting to be part
of Gene's circle."
But Hiatt, who also worked as a
foreign correspondent when Rob-
inson was foreign editor at the
Post, added that Robinson's vast
experience doesn't hurt either.
"He's also a very good reporter
and I think that's a foundation
for most really good columnists,"
he said. "They know how to find
things out that other people don't
know - they know how to ask the

right questions that other people
haven't asked."
Besides his editor, Robinson has
another, more surprising fan at the
Post's editorial page: - conserva-
tive columnist George Will. A few
months after Robinson began writ-
ing his column in 2005, Will invited
him to lunch to share some tricks of
the trade. Over the meal, Will, who
has had a column since 1974, told
Robinson he doesn't understand
how one could live without a col-
umn, a sentiment Robinson didn't
understand at the time, but one he
said he almost agrees with now.
"I still don't think I'd ever say
that, but I understand it now
because something happens and
you want to talk about it," Robin-
son said. "That may be a natural
human impulse given that there
are about 8 gazillion blogs. But I

"It pushes me to want to do so
much over the course of next year,"
Armstrong said. "It encourages me
to be the best I can be at this posi-
Armstrong said he would not
make his sexual orientation the
focus of the assembly, but said that
it could be significant to MSA and
the student body at large.
"I won't showcase it, but I think
that it will always be important for
individuals to remember that this
did happen, and I was elected," he
said. "I think the implications can
resonate and be very positive for U
of M."
As the first openly gay MSA
president, Armstrong calls his
newly-elected position "symbolic"
for the assembly. He said he hopes
more people will feel welcome to be
themselves at the University.
He added that he encourages gay
students to express their sexual
orientation without fear of being
discriminated against.
"Hopefully individuals will feel
comfortable coming out at U of M
and know that it's a comfortable
environment despite fears and
inhibitions," he said,
have this incredibly valuable real
estate twice a week to justcspout off
about what's going on and explain
to everybody how they ought to
think about it."
But before he was a nationally
respected voice, Robinson was a
student at the University. He came
to Michigan from South Carolina
intending to study architecture,
but three weeks into his time at
school he "stumbled in" to the
Student Publications Building and
began an illustrious career at The
Michigan Daily, ultimately rising
to become the paper's co-editor in
chief in 1973.
"It was a great time to be at
Michigan and it was a great time
to learn to do journalism because
there was so much going on," Rob-
inson said of his time in Ann Arbor.
Jonathan Miller, a University
alum who worked with Robinson
at the Daily, said Robinson always
maintained a "maturity" during
his time at the paper amidst young
journalists who could often be
"very excitable."
"In the early 1970s the campus
was an extremely turbulent place,"
Miller said. "The (Vietnam) war
was at its height. He stepped into
all of this and managed always to
maintain a kind of sanity amidst all
this madness."
Robinson said the paper func-
tioned just like professional papers
at the time, with reporters and
editors filing stories upstairs and
unionized workers using hot type
technology to put the pages togeth-
er downstairs.
"When I came out of Michigan
I certainly was not fully formed as
a journalist," he said. "Obviously
there was a lot that I still had to
learn, but I really felt that I had
such a head start over any possible
alternative. We critiqued each other
pretty mercilessly in those days."
In fact when the "great and
grand editor of the Daily," Marty
Hirschman, criticized th struc-
ture of one of the stories Robin-
son wrote his freshman year, he
penned a "very pompous and pre-
tentious reply" to Hirschman.
"The tradition of doing good
journalism there and being rigor-
ous about it was very much alive

and served me very well," Robin-
son said.
Though Robinson classified his
letter to Hirschman as pretentious,
Miller, who remains close friends
with Robinson,. said he's anything
"He's a guy who's always been
able to talk to people from the
highest to the lowest in society,"
Miller said, adding that Robinson
has "instant empathy."
"He's sort of a big, amusing
man, with a great, global view on
things," he said.
Hiatt said Robinson's personal-
ity also makes him an asset to the
editorial page:
"What makes him so unusual
and successful as a columnist also
makes him wonderful as a friend
and made him great as a colleague
in the newsroom," he said.

From Page 1A
on legislation she worked on in the
House. She noted that during her
time in the House, she has worked
extensively on many environmen-
tal initiatives that were successful-
ly passed in the House, and would
like to see similar legislation make
it to the Senate during the upcom-
ing term.
"I've been able to work pretty
successfully on some important
bill packages that were done in a
bipartisan way and were able to
become law," Warren said. "There
were a number of others that went
to the Senate and just languished
in committee. I want to run for the
Senate so that I can go to the other
side of the dome and help work
on those pieces of legislation that
haven't gotten the light of day in
the Senate yet."
Byrnes said she will continue to
advocate for issues like transporta-
tion infrastructure, education and
reversing the state's brain drain.
"We need to keep our young
people here and retain the talent
that we have here and make sure
that we have the quality of life
that keeps the young people here,"
Byrnes said. "And that's all related
to jobs and the economy and mak-
ing sure that we are encouraging
the goals of businesses that will
keep our talented young people
here in Michigan."
The current chair of the
House Transportation Commit-
tee, Byrnes said she would like
to change the "terrible roads" of
Michigan because it forces busi-
nesses in the state to use addi-
tional resources to safely transport
employees and goods.
"Why would a company want to
come to Michigan with those kinds
of conditions when they have to
move people and their goods in a
safe and efficient manner?" Byrnes
said. "They want to have their
employees get to work on time;
they want to have them commute
there safely."
Byrnes also noted that Michigan
has been lacking in improving its
public transportation systems, and
said that she would like to work
toward establishing better trans-
portation alternatives in the state.
"Michigan has been behind in
those efforts, whether it's com-
muter rail, whether it's the bus,
whether it's high-speed rail," she
said. "We need to be working on
enhancing our multi-modal trans-
portation infrastructure."
Byrnes also said she's always
been passionate about improv-
ing early childhood education in
the state and finds it imperative
to continue to try to find ways to
fund education, especially at the
elementary level.
"We need to continue finding
ways to fund that properly and to
make sure we put as much empha-
sis on early childhood education

as we do post-secondary," Byrnes
Warren said she too is a strong
proponent of supporting education
at all levels and feels it's crucial to
helping the state grow amidst dif-
ficult economic conditions.
"I really strongly feel that the
only way we're going to turn Mich-
igan around is to invest in educa-
tion," Warren said. "So I want to
continue to work on making sure
we have our citizens ready for the
21st century jobs that are here
today and definitely going to be
here tomorrow."
Election reform and voter rights
are other issues Warren said she's
passionate about. She said she
has been working on repealing
Michigan's Rogers' Law - which
requires the address on a voter's
registration card to be the same as
the address on the voter's driver's
Warren said this legislation hin-
ders college students from voting
for candidates and issues in the
district of their universities.
"I'm making sure that our first-
time voters, our young people, who
are just registering to vote and
going off to college, have access to
the ballot," Warren said.
Byrnes said she believes her
diverse work experience in Ann
Arbor will be an advantage over
Warren. Byrnes - who previously
worked as an attorney - has lived
in Washtenaw County since 1975.
She said she feels she has a deep
understanding of the strengths of
the county and how she can devel-
op these assets in a way that will
benefit the state.
"I've had contact in the com-
munity for 30-plus years," Byrnes
said. "So I think that gives me the
understanding of knowing the
diversity in Washtenaw County,
as well some of the strengths in
Washtenaw County. And I think I
know the people."
Warren said her main cam-
paigning strategy is to personal-
ize herself and allow her potential
constituents to get to know her and
her policies.
"It's always been my style to run
a pretty strong feel-focused cam-
paign," Warren said. "I've always
believed that the best way for me
to win over someone's vote or their
support for the race that I'm run-
ning in, is to get as personal as I
Warren said her voting record
and her strong ability to negoti-
ate to get things accomplished for
the people of Washtenaw County
is what distinguishes her from
"I have found that unique ability
to work across the aisle and across
the'dome to get important legisla-
tion passed," Warren said. "And I
think that record just speaks for
itself, being able to negotiate in
a very politicized world up here
and actually get important things
accomplished for the residents of
Washtenaw County."

From Page 1A
nity come in and help make them."
Tucker said in an interview yes-
terday that helping make the Fes-
tifools puppets offered the visually
impaired students an opportunity
for artistic expression that they
don't have in school.
"We've been bringing the kids
here for three years, but now we're
going to Detroit, too, because a lot
of them don't have arts programs
anymore," Tucker said.
Whitney Bryant, a 15-year-old
student who participated in the
event, said she enjoyed having the
opportunity to try a new type of
"I never sculpted before. It's fun.
I could do it all day," Bryant said.
"And I'll be here next year, too."
Patty Smith, a teacher from
O.W. Holmes Elementary, said that
working with the Festifools pup-
pets gives the visually impaired
students, who are in grades five
through eight, an artistic experi-
ence that's more comprehensive
than what they normally get in
"A lot of art classes for the visu-
ally impaired involve grabbing
a crayon and scribbling, but you
really need thevisuals toget some-
thing out of it," Smith said. "They
love being a part of something, and
getting into a differentrcommunity,
and doing some hands-on art."
But despite the benefit the proj-
ect offered her students, Smith
said the field trip almost didn't
happen because of budget con-

straints within the O.W. Holmes
"(Mark Tucker and Ruth Marsh)
ended up driving us in U of M vans,
because otherwise we would have
had to pay for a bus, which is $300
or $350, and that's not in our bud-
get," Smith said.
Denise McCurtis, a teach-
ing aide who traveled with the
students, said that the students
enjoyed participating in the public
"They like knowing that their
creation is going to be a part of the
parade," said McCurtis. "They've
had a lot of fun with it, making the
paper mach and being together
outside of school."
McCurtis added that the stu-
dents do most of their work on the
puppets without help from their
"I help, but they do most of it
themselves," McCurtis said.
Delon Allen, age 13, said he also
liked building the puppets.
"I like the clay," Allen said. "We
crushed it, and smoothed it out,
and we had to make an arm and
the fingers."
Marsh said she wished that the
Lloyd Hall Scholars students could
have been there during the stu-
dents' field trip so they could work
on the puppets together.
"It's just unfortunate that we
can't get the (University) students
out here, and that we can't have it
on a weekend," Marsh said. "But
given the course schedule and
the (visually impaired) students'
schedule, it just didn't work out."
The Festifools Parade will take
place on April 11 on Main Street.

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