International affairs journalist Fareed Zakaria addresses graduates; surprise appearance at Commencement by alumna Barbara Walters
International affairs journalist Fareed Zakaria delivered the 86th Commencement address today at Sarah Lawrence College. Having related his own journey, from young science student in India to critically-acclaimed host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, to the 330 graduating seniors who earned the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and 130 graduate students receiving master’s degrees, he spoke of the value of a liberal arts education in an ever-changing world.
“I now realize that the most valuable thing I picked up in college and graduate school was not a specific set of facts or a piece of knowledge but rather how to acquire knowledge.” He went on, “At its essence, a liberal education is an education to free the mind from dogma, from controls, from constraints. It is an exercise in freedom.”
Prior to Zakaria’s address, the graduates and some 2,000 family and friends attending the commencement exercises were treated to a surprise appearance by Barbara Walters, who announced that she is donating her archive of tapes, photographs, and papers to her alma mater. Walters retired from her TV show The View last Friday. One of the world’s most accomplished journalists and a true pioneer for women in news broadcasting, Walters has long been a supporter of Sarah Lawrence College. She has recently donated $1 million for student scholarships. In 2005 she donated funds for an art gallery, in the visual arts center, named in her honor. In 2001 she was the College’s commencement speaker and was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
President of the College Karen Lawrence said that the College will establish the Barbara Walters Archive: “We are thrilled by this new gift from our extraordinary alumna so that her legacy can be shared with students, scholars, and beyond.”
Joking about having the trailblazing journalist precede him on the podium, Zakaria said he would be remembered as the man who spoke after Barbara Walters at the graduation ceremony.
Acknowledging the underpinnings of Walters’ and Zakaria’s profession, and one of the hallmarks of a Sarah Lawrence education, Zakaria spoke of the importance of writing. “Whatever you will do in life, the ability to write clearly, cleanly and…quickly will prove to be an invaluable skill. …Whether you are a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant, or a historian, writing forces you to make choices and brings clarity and order to your ideas.”
In her introduction of Zakaria, President Lawrence remarked: “It is appropriate on the occasion of our Commencement that we welcome a speaker who has the ability to translate complex political issues into sharp and nuanced prose.”