National Public Radio broadcaster Diane Rehm told graduates of the School of Public Health and Health Services not to get caught up in technology and to focus instead on in-person communication as a way to network with the world.
At the school’s ceremony Saturday, Rehm touted the importance of face-to-face conversations in an increasingly globalized and wired society.
“I see the richness of conversation creating relationships, and I see that as a major contribution to overall wellness,” Rehm, who has hosted her own daily call-in show for more than two decades, said. Although she is a regular contributor on Facebook and Twitter, Rehm told graduates not to let their social media interactions dwarf one-on-one dialogue, which can lead to increased loneliness.
“I do believe the sound of the human voice is of primary importance to public health and well-being,” Rehm said. “Speaking with and listening to others makes a huge different in every aspect of life.”
Rehm reflected on the vitality of personal communication when discussing her husband, John, whom she met 52 years ago. “Each word has become precious as a message of the endurance and love we have for each other.”
When asked in March about the selection of Rehm, who is not an expert in public health, School of Public Health and Health Services Dean Lynn Goldman told The Hatchet that Rehm's "ability to highlight issues and discuss present health policy matters make her very appealing for GW students and staff."
Rehm shared the stage with the school’s student speaker, Shana McClendon.
McClendon, who earned a master’s of public health in health policy, encouraged graduates to “keep making it happen,” charging students with saving the world.
“Who do you think eradicated small pox? That was us, guys. That was public health,” McClendon said.
Graduate Julie Lewis, who received a master’s of public health in health policy, said Rehm’s point about keeping up with personal relationships is often overlooked.
“I thought that her point about conversation and maintaining connections was so important,” Lewis said. “We talk about it but we really need to keep that in mind.”