As a freshman at Central College in Pella, Iowa, Harry Smith – today one of the most famous names in television news – imagined he might someday become a coach and drivers ed teacher. He joined a cappella choir and played football. He also wanted to study abroad.
So in 1972, during his junior year, he headed to Taiwan to teach English. Telling the story at the Annual NAFSA Breakfast of Central College Abroad in Kansas City earlier this month – he now serves on the Central College board of trustees – Smith recalled it as the “single most transformative and powerful experience of my life.” He discovered that people in different parts of the world aren’t really so different from each other. We all want the same basic things, Smith says: to make a living; to provide for our families; to see that our children have more opportunities than we did. He also realized how much more there is to learn when we connect with communities and cultures beyond our own.
In the intervening years, of course, Smith has traveled the globe reporting on some of the biggest international news stories of our time, and he has carried his global sensibility with him. He pushes hard at CBS to get more coverage for stories that go beyond the borders of the United States, believing that the American public needs to better understand the world, and to be able to relate to it. “The sustainability of our country is going to be about how conversant we are with the rest of the planet,” he says.