Foreign affairs commentator and Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria ’86 will deliver this year’s Class Day address on May 27, senior class officials said Thursday.
Since graduating from Yale, Zakaria has taught at Harvard University, written articles for numerous journals and newspapers — including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New Republic — and published a best-selling book, “The Future of Freedom,” in 2003. Before being named international editor of Newsweek in 2000, Zakaria served as managing editor of Foreign Affairs. Zakaria currently serves on the Yale Corporation, to which he was appointed last January.
As a Yale alumnus who has established himself as a respected voice in international affairs, Zakaria will be able to offer substantial and engaging remarks to seniors and their families as they prepare to graduate, Senior Class Secretary Irving Ye ’07 said.
“Mr. Zakaria is a successful example of how a Yale graduate can positively and meaningfully impact our society,” he said in an e-mail. “He is a respected and influential figure around the world, and drawing from his colorful experiences, we are sure that he will offer a rich, lively and insightful speech.”
Class Day speakers are not always former Yalies, Senior Class Treasurer Katie Allen ’07 said, although the senior class often chooses graduates to deliver the address because alumni understand the importance and meaning of the ritual.
CNN news anchor and Emmy Award winner Anderson Cooper ’89 delivered last year’s address. The year before, the speaker was Eleanor Holmes Norton GRD ’63 LAW ’64, the District of Columbia’s delegate to the House of Representatives. Other recent Class Day speakers have included former New York Governor George Pataki ’67, New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, and journalist Thomas Friedman.
University President Richard Levin, Assistant to the President Nina Glickson and Associate Dean of Yale College Penelope Laurans assisted the two senior class officers in the search for a speaker, which began last May, Allen said. Class Day speakers are not directly compensated, but the University donates $1,000 to a charity of the speaker’s choice, she said.
While most students said they expect Zakaria to deliver an interesting speech, some said other public figures who could deliver more lively talks would have been better choices. Erkan Benim ’07, who has seen Zakaria speak in public twice before, said he is excited to hear Zakaria again in May.
“I respect him very much,” Benim said. “He is one of the few people that I actually read … I think he can deliver a very good speech because he is very sharp.”
Justin Baker ’07 said that while he thinks previous Class Days have attracted bigger-name speakers, he is looking forward to hearing Zakaria’s insights on foreign policy and his experience at Yale. Baker said he occasionally reads articles that Zakaria publishes.
“I don’t think he’s necessarily as high-profile as Anderson Cooper, but he is just as interesting,” Baker said. “It’s not like a name that is going to grab headlines, but for people who keep abreast of politics and international affairs, it’s a good choice.”
But Daniella Berman ’07 said that while she knows of Zakaria and thinks his speech is likely to be engaging, a figure who is not as heavily involved in politics might be able to keep the audience more entertained.
“It doesn’t have to be politically void,” she said. “What I recommended to the Senior Class Council was someone like [“Colbert Report” host Stephen] Colbert or [“Daily Show” host] Jon Stewart. That has the right balance of the politics that everyone apparently thinks we need at Class Day and entertainment.”
While at Yale, Zakaria, who lived in Berkeley College, was a member of the Party of the Right and served as president of the Yale Political Union.