Awards & Events

You Won’t Hear Schultz or Brown Use Term ‘Rust Belt’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Connie Schultz was growing up in Ashtabula, children weren’t raised to talk about politics. Today, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist thinks politics needs brought up more than ever.

People should strive to have more uncomfortable conversations in places they would not normally talk about politics, Schultz said during a Youngstown Press Club event Friday evening. It comes down to who gets elected and who doesn’t, she said.

“I was raised that you don’t talk about politics at family reunions, church, at the grocery store,” she said. “Now? Yes. Everywhere. We need to bring it up. We need to talk about how we didn’t become more informed voters and then help other voters become informed voters. It’s hard work.”

Schultz said Youngstown is an example of the type of people in her hometown. She objects to the term “Rust Belt” because it casts Youngstown and its residents as an underdog and used up, she said.

“Rust indicates there’s no vital function to us anymore,” Schultz said. “One of the things that concerns me about Youngstown is the narrative we’ve accepted for ourselves.”

Media professionals gathered at Stambaugh Auditorium to hear Schultz speak on politics and journalism alongside her husband, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Schultz spoke to the role of newspapers and journalism in ensuring the public remains informed. In light of the Vindicator’s closing, if people find themselves relying on certain news sources, they should consider a digital subscription, Schultz said.

“Consider sacrifices elsewhere to support the journalism you’re counting on,” she said. “Without this journalism, what we are seeing right now happening and this would not have happened. It costs us so much money to keep this afloat.”

Schultz is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate and professional in residence at the Kent State University School of Journalism. In 2005, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her columns.

Bruce Springsteen inspired Schultz to become a writer, she said. There’s poetry in our lives and he can put it into a song, she added.

“I look at the narrative we have about ourselves and I wish more of us were working-class snobs to be honest with you,” Schultz said. “I wish we were Youngstown snobs, Ashtabula snobs and all these different communities that are struggling so much. The reformation and the growth starts with us.”

The Youngstown Press Club event was hosted at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Throughout the event, Schultz and Brown discussed several topics, including Youngstown, journalism, politics and personal experiences. To Brown, Youngstown is the most resilient place in the state, he said. The spirit of people here is strong, he said.

“Young people I know too often leave the Valley and go to Cleveland, Chicago or Charlotte,” Brown said. “It’s always a challenge and it’s a little harder for you to see your grandchildren because your grandchildren are more likely to live somewhere else.

“That’s a story of our times, but it’s a story of communities in Ohio that face that,” Brown said. “But I also know how resilient this community is and you [the young people in the audience] will continue to tie back and continue to have pictures.”

Born and reared in Mansfield, Brown spent summers working on his family’s farm and was an Eagle Scout. The Democrat was elected last year to his third U.S. senate term.

“When I run for office, I have a certain joy about it,” Brown said. “People who know me know that I do this job with joy most of the time and with optimism.”

Something that Schultz always says about her husband is that she has never been happier to be married to a man who never looks in the mirror and sees the next president of the United States, she said.

“There is considerable self confidence in thinking that you should be the leader of the free world,” Schultz said.

When her husband was reelected to be a senator, he was happy with being that senator, Schultz said.

“I respected it,” she said. “It was a tough time, but I certainly supported whatever he decided to do. I always go back to that and really think about how [he] was going to be a very unhappy man [as president.] Who wants to be married to that?”

Anyone can be a candidate for anything, but they should have drive and excitement about what they decide to do in life, Brown said. One of his best memories is of the late Ted Kennedy, a U.S. senator and the brother of the President John F. Kennedy.

“[Kennedy] died only two and a half years after I was elected, so I served with him for a couple of years,” he said. “I remember he always had joy and this is a man who almost died in a plane crash. The Kennedys all had a joy in doing their jobs.”

Having conducted more than 340 roundtables in his home state, Brown believes the best ideas come from conversations with Ohioans, not from Washington. D.C.

“You will never hear me say ‘rust belt’ ever because I think that’s demeaning,” he said. “To me, you can talk about governing through the eyes of workers.”

Brown and Schultz reside in Cleveland with their rescue dogs, Franklin and Walter. They have three daughters, a son, a daughter-in-law, three sons-in-law and seven grandchildren.

The Youngstown Press Club is an organization of media professionals dedicated to promoting journalism and other communications-related professions in the Mahoning Valley.

“We have a great amount of professionals from all aspects of our industry here locally and regionally,” said JoAnn Kolarik, president of the Youngstown Press Club.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.