What We May Learn from A Veteran Observer of Politics

On July 20, 2013, I learned that Helen Thomas died.  She had been battling a long illness.  Luckily, i called her just a few weeks ago and we shared a short, but vigorous political conversation and one of mutual affection. I had the privilege of getting to know Helen over a decade ago when I contacted her to speak to middle school students about politics.  She did a telephone interview that was compelling.  Since then, she granted several interviews to speak to high school students. One of those sessions is preserved here.  The book "Justice for Dina" was dedicated to Helen Thomas.  She liked that.

Since the days of the Kennedy administration, Helen Thomas has been an important contributor to the American body politic with her penetrating questions and mere presence, as politicians would have to adjust their remarks to the inevitable response by Miss Thomas, which often relied on the simple, delicate question, asked and asked until answered.  Today, if Miss Thomas were still located in the front of press row at the White House, she might ask President Obama, simply, "Why is Guantanamo still open? Didn't you promise you'd close it?" For the past decade, I have been in touch with Helen Thomas, asking her questions from time to time and she has graciously allowed students to interview her via telephone. I was able to have lunch with her in Washington, D.C. when she was still employed with Hearst and escorted her to a restaurant near her office (Legal Seafood--now closed).  As we walked towards the place, countless people commented as we passed, "There's Helen Thomas...Hey look there, it's Helen Thomas."  When I mentioned these passing comments, without skipping a beat, she said, "The far more interesting question is, 'Who is that with Helen Thomas?'" Her interaction with a group of middle school students in 2002 was memorable.  She consented to an interview to discuss current political themes on August 2, 2011, two days before her 91st birthday (one shared with President Obama).


The following interview was conducted on August 2, 2011.  Her kindness in continuing to share her observations and her directness in getting to the heart of important issues are invaluable.



David Rapaport and Helen Thomas




Click Here for an Article on an Interview Conducted with Helen Thomas in 2005 by Palo Alto High School Students





Why Journalists Play A Critical Role in American Culture

  • What is the function of the White House press corps?
  • When Helen Thomas started at the White House, what was the journalism profession like for women?
  • What comments does Helen Thomas make in the recorded interview that interest you?
  • What kinds of questions would you ask the President?