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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

More than meets the eye

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(3/2013) After watching Good Night and Good Luck and analyzing Edward R. Murrow’s speech, I came away with an understanding that Murrow was, at the time, discouraged with the technology of television. He was fearful of how it would impact society. He was convinced that technology would make people even more complacent about the world around them. Fifty-five years following Murrow’s speech show that he had some insight into the future of the world regarding our use of technology, but in my opinion, the opposite of his prediction can be seen.

In my generation, we are never satisfied with basic information. If there is more to be learned, then we actively seek it. There now is the term, "Google it" because of our constant quest for knowledge, and we are never limited in our pursuit. Murrow believed that technology had the potential to tempt us to sit back and be lazy. Yet, technology has come to yield the reverse outcome in many cases. Technology allows us to have access to more research and more opportunities for knowledge. In seconds, we can access more resources than a life without technology would give us in years.

Murrow is concerned with the idea that technology’s purposes fit in one of two categories. Imagine it like a scale. On one side, the purposes (of television in Murrow’s case and technology in mine) are for entertainment, amusement, and "insulation" from the stresses of the outside world. This is the side that Murrow considered technology to be categorized. The other side of the scale is where technology’s purposes are to teach, illuminate, and "inspire." When considering these purposes of technology, I began to evaluate the technology around me to determine in which side of the scale I would place each item. I began to question into which category something like sports would fit.

My thoughts then turned to the Olympics, the worldwide sporting event that is incredibly competitive. My initial thoughts were that the Olympics would fall onto the side of the scale Murrow thought technology would neglect. The side that teaches, illuminates, and "inspires." The Olympics are a huge source of education. The opening ceremonies reveal cultural history about the host country and also about each country participating. It is educational to hear and see people from over a hundred different countries wearing outfits that represent their culture and having their number of athletes reflective of their population size. The Olympics also teach us that anything is possible and, once again, that determination creates a path to success. The Olympics illuminate the various cultural norms of other societies and even bring light to certain problems or concerns within a country if they are prevalent at the time.

The most noticeable characteristic is that the Olympics are inspirational, to say the least. I find it very hard to believe that anyone could watch the United States’ women’s gymnastics team win gold medals and not get goose bumps and be tempted and inspired that they could successfully land a cartwheel or even a backflip. Likewise, regardless of his first race, I would refuse to believe that any American, and especially a Marylander, would say they were not honored, proud, and inspired by Michael Phelps’ smile and his final splash when he became the most decorated Olympian in history.

The technology of television also allowed me to become even more inspired by Maryland track star, Matthew Centrowitz. Matt and I attended the same high school and at that time, we lived roughly ten minutes away from each other. When it became known that Matt was going to go to the Olympics, signs were made and the term, "Centronation" evolved. Few things are more inspirational than knowing that someone who grew up just like you, will one day (I am convinced) win an Olympic gold medal. Evidently, the Olympics do fill the side Murrow thought television would abandon.

Though, the Olympics also can fit into the entertainment, amusement, and "insulation" side as well. When considering the opening ceremonies, although they can be seen as educational, they are also designed to be fully entertaining and amusing. The host country spends immense amounts of time and money trying to capture the world’s attention. The Olympics also allow for insulation because they create an escape from reality, just like football.

After examining Murrow’s speech, I have decided to refute the idea that society has become complacent and indifferent because of the use of technology. Technology, television in specific, is not just "wires and lights behind a box," as Murrow describes. It is so much more than that. Without technology, we wouldn’t have immediate access to sports. We could not watch the Super Bowl unless we had tickets, and we could not witness triumph in the Olympics either. Technology is an enabler, not an inhibitor. It is the balance of both sides of the scale working together and that is the way it should be. It gives us all of these characteristics that Murrow claimed technology would produce simultaneously, and we are left to decide the fate and influence of technology. It does not decide for us.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen