On January 27th, President Karen Lawrence announced that Dr. Fareed Zakaria will be the 2014 commencement speaker. Dr. Zakaria is connected to Sarah Lawrence through his wife, Paula Throckmorton Zakaria, who graduated from the 2010 Writing MFA graduate program. Dr. Zakaria will join the impressive and lengthy list of Sarah Lawrence commencement speakers, which includes the likes of Robert Frost, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright, Toni Morrison, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Rahm Emanuel, Julianna Margulies, and Vera Wang.
Dr. Zakaria was born in India on January 20, 1964. He received his B.A. from Yale College and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has received honorary degrees from Brown, the University of Miami, and Oberlin College.
Fareed Zakaria is currently the host of CNN’s flagship international affairs program, Fareed Zakaria GPS, a New York Times bestselling author, Editor at Large of TIME Magazine, and a Washington Post columnist. Within its first year, GPS garnered an Emmy nomination for an interview with Premier Wen Jaibao. Dr. Zakaria has interviewed countless influential figures, including the Dalai Lama, President Obama, Moammar Gadhafi, and Lula de Silva. At twenty-eight, Dr. Zakaria was appointed the managing editor of Foreign Affairs, a position he retained for eight years until he joined Newsweek in October 2000.
Numerous articles have been written about Dr. Zakaria’s influence on foreign policy since he wrote his famous essay “Why They Hate Us” in 2001 following 9/11. Marion Maneker of New York Magazine described him in her 2012 article “Man of the World” as being “a conservative who is willing to question one of the most cherished principles of the West—democracy—but also a naturalized citizen who believes in America’s world-historical mission.” In 1999, Esquire magazine named Zakaria as “one of the 21 most important people of the 21st Century.”
In 2012, Dr. Zakaria was briefly suspended from his positions as TIME editor, CNN host, and Washington post columnist after a plagiarism scandal. He allegedly lifted a passage from The New Yorker and put it into his own column in TIME. Although there have been similar instances in his other writings, Zakaria’s employers identified the incident as being an isolated one and after a week of suspension, he was allowed to work again. Zakaria’s explanation for the alleged plagiarism was that he got his notes confused and did not decipher his research from his own work. Whether or not this is the case has yet to be proven. As a result of the scandal, Dr. Zakaria was forced to reevaluate his busy schedule and examine his priorities. In an interview with the New York Times he said that “he planned to cut back on work with groups like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Little Shakespeare Company, and the Yale University governing board.” He also planned to make fewer speeches. Apparently Sarah Lawrence’s commencement speech was an exception.
Dr. Fareed Zakaria is an interesting choice for 2014 commencement speaker. Aside from his wife’s connection to the school, Dr. Zakaria has no ties to the community or the politics of the school. He does, however, live in New York City, and the choice may have been one of convenience. It will be exciting to hear what Dr. Zakaria’s wisdom will be that he imparts on the class of 2014.
While the choice may not have been an expected one, Dr. Zakaria has certainly had a full life thus far and his knowledge of foreign policy and politics is vast. Sarah Lawrence students, especially those in the class of 2014, are hopefully in for an enlightening speech in May.
by Anna Jurek '16