Hillary Clinton’s former chief of staff, Tamera Luzzatto, this years Executive-In-Residence for the 14th-Annual James C. Bowling lecture, told an audience of approximately 300 guests on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the small ballroom of the University of Kentucky’s Student Center how she got into the change business at an early age, about the incredible power new technologies offer to shape public opinion and change public policy and encouraged students to “suit up” to be change agents by mastering new technologies and improving their communication skills.
Luzzatto got into the business of change in middle school when she led a protest demanding the sixth and seventh grades be allowed to join the upper classes in a protest against the Vietnam War. And in 1970 she started an environmental club that at one point was featured on local television for picketing outside the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art because they were “eating up all of the land” around Central Park as they expanded.
Luzzatto served on the staff of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV for nearly 15 years and as the chief of staff for then, Senator Clinton from 2001 to 2009. She discussed the importance of communication and public relations while working in these roles saying it was imperative to join with other senators and create outside support, building coalitions to create change. She cited the success of the S-Chip program, which expanded health insurance benefits for children, while working for Rockefeller and the enormous support offered by all of Congress during and after the September 11 attacks on New York City as great examples of people communicating with each other to create change.
Currently Luzzatto works as senior vice president of government relations at The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she ensures that Pew’s wide range of nonpartisan policy work is effectively and accurately communicated to policy makers. She talked about the importance of communicating to form coalitions to pass bills and implement regulations to better serve the public and the planet.
” We make a case for change by sharing the facts and most importantly appointed evidence and real life experience on how government can perform certain functions more cost effectively and policies can and ought to be performed with better results for all of our citizens,” she said.
Lightheartedly, Luzzatto reflected on the changes in technology she has experienced in her lifetime, from the introduction of the Internet to data mining.
“When I graduated from college the Internet was the ARPANet somewhere out in California,” Luzzatto said.
She told the audience that all of this change in technology has transformed the way we get our information and has changed how we think about influencing the opinions of others saying that with each position she has held there “has been a very targeted communication plan.”
Currently she calls all of the communication tools available to her “weapons of mass construction.” The role of communication now is to utilize social media in a way that “creates a sense that the entire American public expects a certain action.” Much time is spent not only determining who the target group is to create change, but finding the best mode of communication to reach that group.
Luzzatto told students to learn about all communication technologies saying these skills will benefit any profession. She also emphasized the importance of actively working on public speaking skills, not only speaking in front of a crowd, but also active debate.
Said Luzzatto: “As I look back on all of these years trying to make change, I am struck by the incredible power in the arsenal of the technology and means of communicating and informing the world.”