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Keynote speaker Julia Ioffe visits CSU to discuss democracy

Special+guest+Julia+Ioffe+speaks+during+the+2024+Colorado+State+University+International+Symposium+in+the+Lory+Student+Center+April+2.
Collegian | Ava Puglisi
Special guest Julia Ioffe speaks during the 2024 Colorado State University International Symposium in the Lory Student Center April 2.

An audience of eager listeners awaited the arrival of acclaimed journalist Julia Ioffe to hear her discuss democracy and journalism.

Democracy is Colorado State University’s theme for the 2023-24 school year, and this is reflected in numerous places across campus. One is the fifth annual International Symposium that kicked off April 2. Ioffe is a Russian-born American journalist who made her second visit to CSU April 2 to discuss the current state of democracy throughout the world.

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Ioffe spoke to a crowd during a keynote event in the Lory Student Center Ballroom D, and Lucas Brady Woods mediated the event and asked questions. Ioffe’s work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico and more.

The first topic discussed was an assessment of global democracy right now.

“It’s hard not to look at what’s happening,” Ioffe said. “Democracy is very passe, including both the left and the right.”

“Democracy is not a natural state. It is a state that requires constant work. … It requires a high level of media literacy among its population to be able to sort out fact from fiction. It requires, in America, voting very, very frequently.” -Julia Ioffe, Russian American journalist

Ioffe reflected on her upbringing in both America and Russia and how it has impacted her work and her perception of democracy in different places. 

“(There were Russian) independent journalists and democracy activists, people who were putting our lives and our freedom on the line every single day for a concept they had never experienced,” Ioffe said. 

Ioffe listed questions many Russian journalists ask when they look at the United States.

“’Who do we look to if you guys can’t even do it right?'” Ioffe said. “‘Why are we fighting so hard for this if you guys can’t maintain this gift that you have?’”

Another topic discussed was the reason democracy is backpedaling and, in some areas, failing.

“Democracy is not a natural state,” Ioffe said. “It is a state that requires constant work. … It requires a high level of media literacy among its population to be able to sort out fact from fiction. It requires, in America, voting very, very frequently.”

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Ioffe’s keynote wasn’t the only event; there were numerous other presentations throughout the entire symposium, including those given by professors in political science and communication studies. The symposium spanned two days from April 2-3. 

CSU has made a push to bring democracy-minded voices to campus, fitting with the thematic Year of Democracy.

Ioffe’s previous visit to CSU was in late November 2017, when she utilized her Soviet history knowledge, which she studied at Princeton University. During the visit, she discussed the United States’ relationship with Russia and its impact on the 2016 election. With another election year coming up, this second visit is also timely.

Ioffe also touched on how democracy is seen by the right and left sides of the political spectrum and how it is discussed, as well as how the United States is seen as “the world’s policeman” and what would happen if America were not in that position.

“China would love to be the world’s policeman; Russia would love to be the world’s policeman,” Ioffe said. “They’ve been very open about that fact. They don’t even pay lip service to the idea of human rights, democracy, to individual freedoms. … I think Americans, understandably, are very critical of their country. … We should hold our country to a very, very, very high standard and always (push) to be better, better, better, better, and we have a long way to go. But when you go abroad — I mean, there’s a reason that people want to immigrate to the U.S.”

Reach Aubree Miller at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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