Journalist Juan Williams headlines International Book Fair

Veronica Eissa

“In order to be effective we have to be informed. In order to be informed we have to read.”

These were the inspiring words heard from Juan Williams on Oct. 4 at the Saville Theatre during the Third Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair. The journalist and political analyst gave a powerful speech, which received a standing ovation.

“I liked how he focused on one of the real problems of American society, the negative image in the media,” said 28-year-old Oscar Rayle. Rayle, a social science major, was at the book fair to listen to Williams and to check out the books. He said he likes the selection of books at the fair that “you normally don’t see”. This was his first time attending.

The fair has continued to expand over the last three years in hopes to draw bigger crowds and participation. The speakers and booths vary in content but all with a primary focus on promoting literacy.

From JAZZ 88.3 to non-profit organizations such as the San Diego Writers Ink and the San Diego Council on Literacy, visitors were well-informed and encouraged to participate through programs, entertainment and volunteering opportunities. Nicole Vollrath, with the San Diego Writers Ink, has attended all three years and says about her organization, “Our mission is to promote literature in writing in San Diego County,” and to promote “the art of the book.”

L. Curt Erler, a Chicago native, is promoting two of his books and spoke with enthusiasm about his experience as an author. “I don’t do it for the money. My goal is to write a book,” he said. Erler believes anyone is capable of writing and advises college students and aspiring authors to always keep a journal.

The crowd was as varied as the books. Estela Garibay and her pre-teen grandson, Angel Fausto, made their way through the campus after hearing of the event through a friend. “My grandson loves to read” Garibay said. “And I like books too.”

Chris Debauche, a Southwestern College senior, who is a double major in crime investigation and literature, attended Williams’ presentation and to scan the event for a second time. Debauche said, “He (Williams) was profound, I was blown away by him”. The 29-year-old said he’d really love to see this event done in the south bay area. “We don’t have that down there”, he states. Debauche hopes to get some pointers and talk to vendors to make this come true. “We want this to be a community thing, not just a City College, Southwestern College thing”. He says he loves the event and liked the fact that the authors and speakers were switched around this year.

The speakers and some authors were different this year to give more participation and variety. Yasmeen Mohamed, an aspiring author in the process of opening her own publishing company, hopes to be one of the vendors next year, an opportunity that made her come today.

In his speech, Juan Williams emphasized the importance of being informed and involved in the decisions that make the country, and of addressing the problems in our society. He believes we have the power to change, especially in a history-making year and with elections around the corner.

“The power of books is to give us a sense of who we are and where we are” he states. “Books are key.”

The book fair is about community, networking, learning, staying informed and participating. When Williams was asked what advice he had for students on college campuses to help fight the negative influence of the media and motivate students to get involved, he advised young adults to read. To find information from both sides, information from many sources and not stick to celebrity news or news that relays one-sided perspectives.

Again, he puts the responsibility back on the people, the reader, by stating. “An informed consumer of American media has to be in control of media consumption.”

In the end, much was gained and accomplished. According to Jim Miller, the event director, an estimated 6,000 people attended the fair throughout the week. Miller stated, “This was by far our best year!”