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School of Diplomacy and International Relations

National Security Fellowship Hosts Former National Security Council Spokesman and Crooked Media Co-Founder

Virtual meeting with graduate students.Earlier this semester, The National Security Fellows (NSF) program welcomed former Obama assistant press secretary and current podcast co-host, Tommy Vietor. Vietor spoke about his professional experiences and offered guidance on the NSF team’s project with the U.S. Department of State which focuses on media and messaging.

A co-host of two popular podcasts, Pod Save America, and Pod Save the World, Vietor emphasized the importance of accessibility in communicating effectively with an audience. Key issues, he said, are often discussed through jargon and acronyms, acting as a barrier to understanding. Vietor talked about how Crooked Media, the company he launched in 2017 with partners Jon Favreau and Jon Lovett, works to be inclusive and accessible by making discussions about law, politics and foreign policy engaging for anyone.  

Vietor’s message struck a chord with the NSF students as they consider effective messaging for their research project. 

"Vietor’s relaxed approach allowed me to ask questions more freely," commented Jaasiel Forde, a second-year graduate student and one of the leaders of the NSF team. "He was able to spark new ideas that I can recommend for our NSF project."

Forde said she appreciated that the discussion around foreign policy was so approachable. "Having clarity on what is going on in the world is important and should be accessible to anyone despite their status, and it inspired me to incorporate the same approach when presenting new ideas from my research."

Vietor also discussed the importance of tailoring a message to match the medium. As connectivity and access to communication channels including podcasts, short-form and long-form social media and video content expands, there are numerous opportunities to reach a target audience. Choosing how you disseminate a message, he said, can be just as important as the message itself. Vietor also stressed that context is critical in presenting a coherent story. Highlighting individual voices, he noted, helps humanize issues. 

Included among the students were several avid fans of Crooked Media podcasts. Graduate student Anneliese Preske mentioned how meaningful the programs have been to her academic pursuits. "Engaging with Tommy Vietor was an incredible experience," she said. "I started listening to his podcasts, Pod Save America and Pod Save the World, during my time as an undergraduate student. It inspired me to pursue a second major in political science, which ultimately led to attending graduate school. The National Security Fellowship gave me the opportunity to share this with Mr. Vietor and hear his insights on U.S. foreign policy."

Vietor offered advice to NSF students  preparing for careers after graduation, particularly to those interested in politics. He said that while many people think getting a job in D.C. is the only way to get involved in the field, working on political campaigns is also highly valuable. While passion and commitment go a long way, Vietor also noted the importance that nonpartisan civil servants play in accomplishing the goals of an administration.

The NSF team works under the guidance of alumnus and Department of Defense advisor Mohamad Mirghahari (B.A.'02/M.A.'04). This year's research team is comprised of eleven graduate students from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Jaasiel Forde and Joshua Smith lead the team, which includes Zane Cawthon, Anneliese Preske, Mary Burke, Carter Bucken, Juan Carreon, Anthony Morisi and Emmanuel Ogundele, with support from advisors Del Sanders and Jocelyn Anderson.

Categories: Education, Nation and World