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Frank Sesno        

Anchor and Washington Bureau Chief, CNN (1984-2009) and Director, George Washington University's School of Media & Public Affairs

Frank Sesno is an internationally recognized journalist with over 30 years of experience reporting from around the world. Well known as a former anchor, White House correspondent and interview host with CNN, he is also a nationally renowned moderator, engaging some of the world's leading personalities. As the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, he has taught a range of courses, including the Art of the Interview, Journalistic Ethics, Multi-Media Reporting to Inform and Engage and Art and Genre of Documentary. At GW, he established The Center for Innovative Media. The Center’s goal is to be a hub for highly innovative production, teaching and symposia in emerging media and public policy. The Center’s major initiative is Planet Forward, a user-driven web site that focuses on energy, climate, food production and global sustainability issues. Sesno presents stories from Planet Forward in a weekly segment on Bloomberg Television.

Sesno has produced a number of documentaries that have engaged some of the biggest issues and personalities of our era. As a former CNN special correspondent, Sesno's work included an hour-long special, Iran: Fact or Fiction, which highlighted the implications of Iran's nuclear program. He traveled around the world to produce the documentary, We Were Warned–Tomorrow's Oil Crisis. In the midst of the War in Iraq Rumsfeld: Man of War looked at one of the most polarizing Secretaries of Defense in American history. Other major documentaries include Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered, for The History Channel and the four-part, eight-hour PBS series, Avoiding Armageddon, which examined terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and failed states. Sesno created and hosted the public television series, The Future of News, which examined the transformation in journalism and media.

Sesno has interviewed five American Presidents—Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—and business and government leaders from around the world. He has spoken with some of the most influential personalities of our time: Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Condoleezza Rice, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hosni Mubarak, Margaret Thatcher, Yasser Arafat, Jack Welch, Tom Ridge, Ted Turner and Walter Cronkite to name just a few. He continues his insightful interviews through the Conversation Series at The George Washington University, which he inaugurated in 2007.

During his two-decade tenure at CNN, Sesno covered a wide range of stories—from Operation Desert Storm to the disputed U.S presidential election of 2000 and the historic series of U.S.-Soviet summits during the 1980's.

Sesno has won many prestigious journalistic awards including a national and regional Emmy; several CableAce awards, Clarion Award, and Cine Golden Eagle awards; a Lincoln Unity award and an Overseas Press Club Award.

Sesno joined CNN in 1984 and for seven years was White House correspondent after which he moved to the anchor chair. From 1996 through 2001, he served as the Washington, D.C., bureau chief and senior vice president. In this capacity, he oversaw the bureau's editorial direction and supervised the network's largest newsgathering operation—including White House, Congressional and Pentagon coverage, as well as the network's political reporting. For seven years, he hosted Late Edition with Frank Sesno, CNN's flagship weekend interview program.

Before joining CNN, Sesno served as overseas correspondent based in London and then White House correspondent for the Associated Press Radio Network.

Prior to his current academic appointment at George Washington University, Sesno was university professor of public policy and communication at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Sesno is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves as Advisory Board Chair of the POSSE Foundation's D.C. Chapter. He serves on the media advisory board of Americares. He is a former trustee of Middlebury College, the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Journalism Award committee.

Sesno holds an honors degree in American History and graduated cum laude from Middlebury College. He was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1995 by the Monterrey Institute of International Studies in California, and received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from his alma mater, Middlebury College in 2009. He is married with 3 children and currently resides in Great Falls, Virginia.

Speech Topics


The Obama Experiment: Politics, Policy and Prospects

From the start, President Barack Obama pursued an ambitious agenda that aimed for monumental change. He transformed health care, enacted a stimulus plan and pursued other sweeping reforms. With his second term, he confronts issues that will chart the course of the nation and determine his legacy: America’s debt and deficit, immigration, climate change and national security to name just a few. One of America’s most experienced political journalists, Frank Sesno looks at the “Obama era” and what it means for the country. Sesno’s Washington reporting has spanned three decades. He has interviewed five presidents. He’s seen both scandal and breakthrough from the inside. In this honest, humorous, yet respectful talk, Sesno discusses the Obama presidency, Congress, a polarized public and the fractious media. Amid the challenges, there is optimism as Sesno puts our current politics into perspective as part of the great, unfolding American experiment in democracy.

Experienced Moderator

Few people are as accomplished or experienced at the art of moderating discussions and debates as Frank Sesno, who combines broad expertise, genuine curiosity, warmth and humor as he draws out guests and panelists. As an interviewer, anchor, talk show host and public event moderator in forums around the world, Sesno has engaged some of the world’s leading personalities on topics ranging from world affairs to business, politics to medical breakthroughs and bioterrorism to globalization. He has conducted one-on-one public conversations with such diverse personalities as Condoleezza Rice, Jack Welch, Madeleine Albright and Yasser Arafat. He has interviewed five American presidents: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. He has conducted high-profile panels, including a sold-out event with five former secretaries of state. Sesno’s goal is to bring out the best and most interesting facets of people, and to create a memorable and informative relationship with the audience.

A Climate for Energy: Addressing the World’s Energy Future

What do political, economic and technological trends suggest for America’s energy future? Frank Sesno has interviewed corporate and political leaders, produced documentaries and reported from around the world on global energy issues. In this speech, he discusses the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead given the economic, security and environmental issues that drive the energy debate. With new sources of oil and gas, combined with the Obama Administration’s commitment to renewable energy and “green” jobs, this is a unique moment in America’s energy policy. Sesno puts the issues in context by assessing the popular and political landscape. One of the world’s most experienced and thoughtful journalists, he looks ahead to changes in the marketplace, policy and public attitudes that are likely to change the way we do business.

Communicating Leadership

At a time of increased scrutiny, skepticism and 24/7 accountability, leadership is more challenging than ever. Effective leaders must have a mission and a vision—and be able to communicate them in ways that are compelling, clear, relevant and real. In this conversation, Frank Sesno examines what it takes to be a truly great communicator as he puts his years as an observer and practitioner of leadership communication to the test. Sesno has interviewed presidents and CEOs. He has held leadership roles and served on governing and advisory boards. His observations provide insight, humor, perspective and valuable information for anyone who wants to be an engaging, effective communicator and leader in an information-saturated age.

The Modern Presidency

Presidents use the bully pulpit to set lofty goals—from winning a war on terrorism or cancer to walking on the moon or balancing the budget. Sometimes they succeed. Often they do not. In the end, presidents confront the limitations of politics, constitutional process and human fallibility. In this fascinating talk, Frank Sesno draws on his experience as a journalist and student of the media-driven presidency. He has covered Washington politics since Jimmy Carter swept into town on an idealistic bandwagon of clean government. He was a White House correspondent during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He anchored coverage of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. He was CNN’s Washington Bureau Chief when George W. Bush’s presidency was transformed by 9-11. He witnessed history from the West Front of the Capitol as Barack Obama first took the oath of office. Sesno has interviewed five American presidents and countless presidential aides, Cabinet secretaries and political strategists. This talk focuses on the styles, priorities, accomplishments and limitations of modern presidents and what it suggests about our politics and our future.

The Media and the Message

Today’s media environment is in turmoil. Information flies at 24/7 digital warp speed. It comes from legacy media, digital start-ups and citizen-generated social media. Leaders and citizens have new tools as they try to break through and tell their story. What’s going on? What works? How are people getting their information? Have facts become casualties to opinion and attitude? Frank Sesno brings a first-person perspective to this provocative discussion of media and message. He was on the front lines as cable news revolutionized global communication. He knows the real-time impact that live reporting can have at times of national crisis. To address the need for clear, uncontested, unbiased facts, he started FacetheFactsUSA.org, a philanthropic-supported multimedia information hub. In this talk, Sesno confronts the state of the media, the public’s need to know and the challenges that opinion leaders face in getting their message across.

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