After two years of big-name politicians — New York Governor George Pataki and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton — the Class of 2003 will get its words of wisdom from a prize-winning journalist.
The Class of 2003’s Class Day committee has chosen Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Thomas Friedman — currently foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times — to give this year’s Class Day speech.
Class Day co-chair Christopher Michel ’03 said the committee chose Friedman because he will be able to speak to the challenges that face this generation.
“We wanted someone that could speak uniquely to our class,” Michel said. “We wanted someone who would be a good speaker, in contrast to just being a big-name speaker.”
Michel is the former editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.
In a poll earlier this fall, many seniors said they would prefer a non-political speaker, which Michel said was one of the main factors in the selection. He said Friedman — who formerly served as the Times bureau chief in Beirut and Jerusalem — could offer a “non-partisan” view of foreign affairs.
“We really wanted someone who was able to reflect on the nature of the world right now,” Michel said.
Elizabeth O’Connor ’03 said she she thought Friedman will be less divisive than an elected politician.
“I think he’ll be really engaging to listen to and I’m certain he’ll be appropriate to the time we’re living in,” O’Connor said.
Michel said because of the nature of the Class Day speech, Friedman might make the talk more personal. Michel said the Class Day committee does not stipulate guidelines for the content of the talk.
Michel said Bill Clinton won the senior poll taken earlier this year. But he said because many students have already heard Clinton speak — the former president’s speech on Cross Campus drew thousands last year — he was not chosen.
Friedman gave a speech sponsored by the Yale Center for Globalization earlier this year, but Michel said the number of people who attended the talk was much smaller.
“This is different from the speech that he would give to the Yale Center for Globalization,” Michel said. “He knows this is a broad audience.”
Friedman, who has worked for the Times since 1981, became the paper’s foreign affairs columnist in 1995. In addition to his time in the Middle East, Friedman served as the Times’ chief White House correspondent and chief economic correspondent in Washington, D.C.