Bruce DuMont’s career in the media has spanned a half century, most notably as host of the nationally syndicated political radio and television talk show “Beyond the Beltway.”
So when he says that this year’s U.S. presidential race is as fascinating as any that he has ever covered, it speaks volumes.
“Between now and November,” he said Thursday afternoon on Concordia University’s River Forest campus, “fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a fabulous ride.”
His remarks came during the keynote for Celebrating Seniors Week’s closing luncheon. Addressing about 100 people at the Koehneke Community Center, including civic, business and philanthropic leaders from Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, DuMont shared wide-ranging stories that encompassed the personal and the professional.
Much of his discussion centered on topics that flow from his weekly program, “Beyond the Beltway with Bruce DuMont.” Launched in June 1980 as “Inside Politics,” the program airs perspectives from all points on the political spectrum.
Largely because of the two “revolutionaries,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and businessman Donald Trump, situated on the far extremes of the political divide, “this is the greatest time in the history of the show,” said DuMont.
Also the founder and president of The Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, where he tapes his show each Sunday evening, DuMont offered candid views on a host of topics. Many of his insights zeroed in on the intersection of an increasingly opinion-fueled media with rising discontent among Americans fed up with the “political establishment.”
To those who believe a Hillary Clinton candidacy “would be a slam dunk” to defeat Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, DuMont cautioned: “Every conventional assessment that’s been made of politics this year basically has been wrong.”
When the Columbia College graduate got started in radio in 1966, “it was all based on facts and research,” DuMont said. “Today we live in a world where facts are not as important as opinions. Your facts don’t necessarily have to be straight.”
As a result of this shift, when a reporter tries to educate the public with facts that contradict opinions, “those on the receiving end say, ‘Ah, those are just left-wing media. They’re just trying to make him look bad.’ The role of the media in challenging candidates is now viewed in a negative way.”
Certainly, skepticism about media motives can be well founded, said DuMont, because “there are many in the media who don’t do a good job of presenting [with] balance and fairness.”
Of his own status as a senior — he turns 72 next month — DuMont said he is still very active, has no hobbies outside of his radio show, and “I still love to go to work.”
Part of what keeps him energized, he said, is mentoring up-and-coming professionals, which he has done since his 30s.
“As a person who surrounds himself with young people, that’s how I stay vigorous,” said DuMont, who has three grandchildren.
DuMont said he does not feel that he’s suffered from “ageism,” which Celebrating Seniors Coalition founder and chairman Jim Flanagan called “the last socially acceptable ‘ism’ in society.”
“I think being on radio and television,” said DuMont, “there is an increased credibility that generally comes with age.”
He also touched on personal connections to Oak Park, including his formerly residing in Oak Park for about 10 years and his parents getting married, 80 years ago this month, at the Oak Park Arms hotel.
Also addressing the audience were River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci and Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb.
Adduci called it a “bittersweet” occasion, because her mother, Jackie, was with her at last year’s closing luncheon but passed away in October 2015.
“This was one of her many events that she loved and cherished,” said Adduci. “I loved sharing every moment of that with her.”
Adduci lauded seniors as “the glue that holds our communities together, and are our institutional memory in many ways. You’re an inspiration that makes us want to do even more to ensure that you stay in our community.”
Founded in 2010, the Celebrating Seniors Coalition is a not-for-profit organization that draws from individuals, businesses, congregations, government agencies and others who serve the senior population. The luncheon capped a week of roughly 50 events, a mix of educational and entertainment offerings, in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.
At the end of the gathering, Flanagan presented the Celebrating Seniors Volunteer of the Year trophy to three individuals: Pat Koko, a key volunteer since Celebrating Seniors’ formation; Sandra Rowe, whose work centered on serving as event scheduler; and Richard Harrison, whose efforts included chairing the Blaze a Trail 5K walk/run fundraiser that was one of the most successful events.
Celebrating Seniors has four main objectives: to provide financial support for seniors in need, to facilitate cooperation between the business community, government agencies and non-profit organizations for the benefit of the senior population; to promote senior groups and organizations that serve persons 60 and older; and to raise public awareness of issues affecting seniors.
For more information about the Celebrating Seniors Coalition, visit www.CelebratingSeniors.net or the organization’s social media pages. On Facebook: www.facebook.com/CelebratingSeniors; on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CelebratingSrs.