Judy Smith — one of the world's best crisis managers, inspiration for the ABC television series Scandal and former Deputy Press Secretary in the White House for the late President George H.W. Bush — delivered a powerful and inspiring lecture to Kean students, faculty and the general public, February 6 at Kean University New Jersey Center for Science, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM) auditorium.
Having dealt with some of the highest profile crisis management cases in the modern era, Smith shared her valuable knowledge and experience to the audience and potential interests in the crisis management and communication fields.
Her firm has advised such notable clients as Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick and Sony Entertainment Network.
Despite the powerful and professional manner in which Smith conducted herself, she still exhibited extremely friendly and down-to-earth vibes to those attending, fostering an open-forum environment where students were encouraged to participate and ask questions.
For an hour or so, Smith answered questions from both the moderator and Vice President of University Relations Karen Smith and members of the audience, focused on the focal points of crisis management, communication, her life and more.
When asked about how to go about preventing or dealing with any potential crisis in one's life, her answer was direct.
"The most important piece of information in any situation are the facts," Smith started.
"There are a lot of things I can't fix. My kids are still on my payroll for one," she said, laughing.
Continuing with her dive into crisis management, Smith issued a stern warning to those on social media.
"Be mindful of the importance and impact social media may have on your image," Smith continued. "How long do you guys think it takes for bad news to travel internationally on social media?"
She fielded many interesting answers.
"Five minutes," one lady shouted among the chatter.
"Well, it takes an average of 17 seconds for bad news to travel [on social media] internationally," Smith said.
The audience had quite an audible gasp in reaction to the sheer time that it takes for news to travel everywhere.
After an in-depth analysis of the inner workings of crisis management, questions began to be directed toward the more personal side of Smith.
When asked about her role in creating Scandal, Smith wanted to see herself in Olivia Pope, the main character played by Kerry Washington.
"[Before Scandal,] I knew nothing about television," Smith said, shrugging.
"It was important to me that the woman who played me was strong, independent, intelligent..."
Additionally, Smith touched upon the importance of why only she could be the inspiration in the lead role.
"It was the first time that an African American woman was a lead in a TV show in 35 years," Smith said with pride.
As the lecture continued on, Smith branched off from her main focal points to offer some valuable advice and perspective.
"As you grow into who you are, you have to know what's important to you..." Smith said, "...ethics, lines and values in which determine who you become."
"Have the confidence that you can do whatever you set your mind to. Life involves action...Action makes it so."
As she concluded her lecture as a whole, Smith left with one more parting piece.
"Take risks. Don't place limits on yourself. The greatest growth for me personally was when I stepped out of my shoes and found out more about myself," Smith said, followed by a standing ovation.
Currently, Smith serves as counselor to Fortune 500 corporations and recently wrote the book titled Good Self, Bad Self.
The next lecture and discussion in the Distinguished Lecture Series will occur March 6 at 4 p.m. in the North Avenue Academic Building with the screening of The Armor of Light.
Information on the aforementioned lecture or any Distinguished Lecture Series presentation can visit its official site.