On Friday, April 7, former press secretary for President Ronald Reagan, Peter Roussel spoke during Professor Bruce Chabot’s English courses, centering his talk on the nature of public relations and communications in politics and business. Mr. Roussel served in both the Ford and Reagan White House, starting his career in Washington in 1969 as the press secretary to then-congressman George H. W. Bush. The former white house staffer spent time in many press positions in Washington and the private sector.
After a brief bio, Mr. Roussell engaged in a question and answer time with students. When asked about today’s media compared to that of when he served in the Reagan White House, Mr. Roussel mentioned the instantaneous nature of today’s press, compared to what use to be dominated by deadlines for print journalism. Mr. Roussell mentioned the way people have often thought that new ways of media communication would eliminate the old ones, from the rise of radio, television and now the internet, Roussell pointed out that old media like print journalism and now radio continues to exist despite this.
Mr. Roussell mentioned a time while serving in the Reagan White House when the media got the wrong message. During the second meeting between President Reagan and soviet leader Mikhail Grobachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, the two leaders agreed to continue talks between the two nations. But, as Roussell remembers, the press painted the meeting in Iceland as achieving nothing towards further diplomacy. Roussell accounts the time as when the press portrayed the wrong narrative causing the white house to put out staffers on the Sunday political talk shows to change the narrative.
Mr. Roussell said he has “sympathy with any press secretary” of any white house, when asked about what he thought of current press secretary Sean Spicer, going on to say that the job requires “physical, mental and emotional discipline.”
Mr. Roussell currently holds the Philip G. Warner Endowed Chair at Sam Houston State University, teaching two courses; The Press and the Presidency and Priority One.
The Press and the Presidency explores the relationship between the white house press corps and the President, and the way in which that relationship has changed throughout the years. Priority One allows students to operate a private sector public relations business to acquire experience in the field.