Major Garrett, BJ ’84, BS Political Science ’84, discusses his unlikely path to journalism at the 42nd Annual Jefferson Club Dinner on April 28, 2012, at the Reynolds Alumni Center.
When discussing his career path, Major Garrett, BJ ’84, BS Political Science ’84, likes to refer to himself as “an absurdity.” The 2012 Thomas Jefferson Distinguished Visiting Lecturer entertained guests at the 42nd annual Jefferson Club Dinner on April 28, 2012, discussing his years as the Chief White House Correspondent for Fox News and his journey to becoming an unlikely journalist.
“There will be times tonight when I get emotional about my affection for this University and all that you do to support it,” says Garrett. “There really is no way I achieve what I do without what I learned here as a student and as a person.”
Garrett, a reporter, writer, editor, broadcaster, blogger, and author, currently serves as the congressional correspondent at the National Journal in Washington, D.C. He began his speech by commenting on the ease with which he made the decision to skip the White House correspondents’ dinner that night in order to speak at the Jefferson Club dinner. Honored by the opportunity, Garrett discussed his career as a reporter and shared the thrill of covering two presidential elections. He gave his predictions for the 2012 presidential election, laughed about reporting through a snow storm, and walked the audience through his uncharacteristic path to becoming a journalist.
“I don’t really belong where I have gotten and I wouldn’t have made it where I did without the faculty, my fellow students, and everything this University devotes itself to, then and now,” says Garrett. “So, in that sense, I am an absurdity, and I mean that with sincerity and great affection.”
A self-proclaimed “typical Southern Californian surfer,” Garrett decided to attend the University of Missouri School of Journalism after hearing about the “world’s first and best journalism school.” This was despite his belief that the Midwest was only fields of corn. During his first semester, he enrolled in zoology, Latin and intermediate drawing classes and earned a 1.57 grade point average.
Despite his rough start at MU, he went on to enroll in the J-school, graduating with two degrees in four years, serving as president of the journalism fraternity and earning two scholarships. Unfortunately, he would face another obstacle upon graduation; he was the only graduate in the news editorial sequence without a job. To this day, he still has the 67 rejection letters he received after graduation. With the help of an MU alumnus, he landed a job in Amarillo, Tex., working as a police reporter for two years. After moving around, from Las Vegas to Houston, he finally landed in Washington, D.C. Before joining Fox News, he worked as the White House correspondent for CNN. Prior to that, he worked as a senior editor and congressional correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, and as a congressional reporter for The Washington Times. Garrett has authored Common Cents (1995), The 15 Biggest Lies in Politics (2000), and The Enduring Revolution (2006).
“Thank you for what you do, thank you for allowing an absurdity like me to be with you tonight, to live the life of my dreams, and may we all make more absurdities who come here be better, stronger and prouder MU grads.”
At the Missouri School of Journalism, Garrett is currently a member of the Missourian Publishing Association Board of Directors, he has been a commencement speaker, and he has served on the Journalism School’s For All We Call Mizzou Campaign Committee. He is married to the broadcast journalist Julie Kirtz and they reside in Washington, D.C. with their three children.
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