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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Friedman to speak at commencement

Published: April 27, 2007
Section: News

After the recent death of author David Halberstam, it was announced Thursday that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman 75 will be this years commencement speaker, joining senior class speaker Jon Krisch 07. Halberstam, the author of works such as The Best and the Brightest and The Powers that Be, was killed in a car accident in Menlo Park, Calif., on April 23.

David Halberstam was truly a gift to this century the country has lost one of the last great renaissance men, said University President Jehuda Reinharz in a press release. His passions, seen through his writings, reveal his mastery of topics as diverse as the organization of the military and the dynamics of team sports.

Friedman, the author of The Lexus & The Olive Tree and The World is Flat, graduated from Brandeis with a degree in Mediterranean Studies, and worked as a reporter for United Press International (UPI) and the New York Times. He has also lectured at Brandeis several times, even teaching last semesters The Economics of Globalization with Professor Chad Bown (ECON).

Student reaction was mixed to the surprise speaker. I think it's just like Brandeis not to follow student opinion by getting us a fun speaker and instead picking someone who caters to a certain socio-political image the administration is trying to achieve. That's been my experience the first four years, why would commencement be any different? said Emily Spreiser 07.

Glen Bae 07, however, said I am so excited I love Thomas Friedman!

I understand that the University was under a deadline, said Kevin Montgomery 07. I just wish they found someone who didnt come to campus seemingly every semester. Avishai Mallinger '07 shared the same sentiments. He said, “normally I'd say [Friedman] is not a good choice because he's not a new presence [but]…under the circumstances…he's a decent choice.” Jordan Frazes '07 was also underwhelmed. “He's an important figure,” she said, “but I wish we could have someone more notable.”

Student graduation speaker Krisch said via email, “it is horribly unfortunate about Halberstam. It would've been such a special commencement ceremony to hear him speak. But the administration made a quick, smart move in asking Friedman to speak. Friedman is a captivating speaker with bold ideas and a vision for the future, which commencement is all about.”