Fareed Zakaria Named 2012 Commencement Speaker

Updated at 3:00a.m. on 10/17/11

Journalist and author Fareed Zakaria did not wake up on time to hear the Class Day speech when he graduated from Yale College in 1986.

“I had celebrated quite a bit the night before,” he admitted in an interview with The Crimson on Friday.

Eight years later, after completing his Ph.D. in government at Harvard in 1993, Zakaria was once again unable to attend his Commencement ceremony—this time, because he had already started a job working in foreign affairs.

That summer, Zakaria received his Harvard diploma in the mail.


But on May 24, 2012, Zakaria—who is now editor-at-large of Time magazine—will be the principal speaker at Harvard’s 361st Commencement, the University announced Friday.

“There’s a Groucho Marx moment in that I don’t know that I would want to attend a Commencement speech given by myself,” he joked. “But I am enormously flattered and honored.”

After receiving a call from University President Drew G. Faust a few weeks ago inviting him to give the Commencement address, Zakaria said he “thought about it for about a nanosecond” before saying yes.

In his speech, Zakaria said he plans to “sketch the new world that we’re moving into” for Harvard graduates.

Zakaria explained that he intends to discuss what he calls the “rise of the rest”—the economic dynamism and political advancement of countries in Asia and Latin America during the 21st century.

The announcement of this year’s Commencement speaker—which traditionally comes at least several months later in the academic year—coincided with Harvard’s 375th anniversary celebrations.

“Harvard is an institution with a global reach, and the men and women who graduate next May will be going out into an increasingly interconnected world,” Faust said in a statement. “Fareed Zakaria is an unusually creative and incisive thinker in the realm of international affairs, and it will be a particular privilege to hear from him as Harvard looks toward the future from the vantage point of its 375th anniversary.”

Zakaria, who was born in India, also hosts Fareed Zakaria GPS, CNN’s flagship international relations television program, and was formerly a Newsweek columnist and editor of Newsweek International.

In 1999, Esquire Magazine described Zakaria as “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation.”

Zakaria described his seven years at Harvard as “the most intellectual experience of my life.”