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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Book fest day two brings authors, admirals, activists

Jesmyn Ward discussed her book “Let Us Descend” with Imani Perry. (Penny Gallagher)

Hundreds of eager readers descended on Tulane University’s campus for the second day of the New Orleans Book Festival. The day featured 45 panels across campus, highlighting topics like climate change, the evolution of warfare and the true meaning of vulnerability. 

Walter Isaacson and John Huey started off the morning, discussing American business leaders. “If you look at Steve Jobs, Ted Turner and Elon Musk, they’re all crazy,” Isaacson said.

Isaacson discussed his new biography of Musk. “We’re all woven of light and dark strands. The most complex of that weaving is Elon Musk,” Isaacson said.

“This should be the fun one,” local chef Kevin Belton said, kicking off the next panel. Belton and four chefs: Meg Bickford, Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, Ashley Hansen and E. J. Lagasse discussed New Orleans cuisine and the familial nostalgia in their cooking.

“I remember sitting in the garden room of the Commander’s Palace and the chaos of the room, and everyone was having so much fun. There was just this energy about the room that I understood something special was happening in there,” Bickford said.

Simultaneously in The Riggio Foundation Stage in the Qatar Ballroom, Annie Murphy Paul, author of “The Extended Mind,” spoke about the science of learning. In her book, Paul explains the research behind how the body impacts how humans think and learn; what she calls “embodied cognition.” 

“Internal cues carry a whole lot of information and … wisdom, if we tune into them,” Paul said. Throughout the day, “we’re taking in such enormous quantities of information, far more than we can ever process consciously because our conscious mind is actually only a tiny fraction of all the mental activity that’s going on at any given moment.”

McAlister Auditorium had few spare seats while journalists Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile discussed the upcoming presidential election. 

Brazile talked about her Louisiana roots and her family relationships. 

“We don’t make the same kind of gumbo,” Brazile said of her and her sister. “She’s a Republican. I am a Democrat. And I guarantee you this evening … we’re going to break bread and drink beer and we’re going to talk about nothing political.”

The three discussed the political importance of reproductive rights in the upcoming election.

“There is just no tradition in this country of giving rights and then taking rights back,” Martin said.

Martin was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. During the riots, Martin said former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump’s actions that day were like Trump had “put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.” 

Haberman said one thing will make the 2024 election different than all others: political violence.

“You are going to see a lot of focus on … threats of political violence,” Haberman said. “That is one of the huge changes in the political fabric of 2024.”

Liz Cheney followed, discussing her new book “Oath and Honor,” where she solemnly covers the threats posed to democracy in the upcoming election. The events of Jan. 6 and November 2024 dominated the discussion, moderated by Isaacson. 

Cheney warned that with eight months until the presidential election, American democracy will be on the ballot. She further criticized her own party for refusing to break with Trump after Jan. 6. “Our constitutional obligations have to mean something, even when difficult to fulfill.”

“We can survive bad policy, not leaders who would torch the constitution,” Cheney said. 

William McRaven, a retired four-star admiral, spoke about his career, the lessons in leadership he’s learned in the military, private sector and education. McRaven served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. 

McRaven assumed that position after playing a key role in the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden. He credited Barack Obama with the success of the operation. “I think that will go down in history as one of the boldest decisions in presidential history,” he said.

Author and New Orleans native Cleo Wade spoke with her best friend Nicole Richie, discussing Wade’s book “Remembering Love,” Wade’s love for her hometown and the true meaning of vulnerability.

“I don’t think you can be from New Orleans and not be about New Orleans,” Wade said.

Wade discussed a close friend who recently lost a parent and how she dealt with grief. “Everything broke and everything fell, and then she built something,” she said. “You don’t get over the worst thing. You don’t get over a heartbreak. Your heart breaks and then it takes new shape and gives room to new things with that open space.”

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