Alumnus Ronan Farrow ’99 to Give Commencement Address

Alumnus Ronan Farrow, currently serving as Special Advisor on Humanitarian and NGO Affairs at the US Department of State, will return to Bard College at Simon’s Rock to serve as the 2011 Commencement Speaker.

At the State Department, Farrow is responsible for the US government’s relationships with NGOs and civil society, focusing on marginalized actors including women’s and youth groups.

As a member of the State Department’s advisory team on Afghanistan and Pakistan, he has helped guide policy in that region for the past two years. He is currently leading a taskforce on youth engagement in American foreign policy for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“It is particularly fitting to have Ronan speak at this time of great political change in the world,” Provost Marcy wrote in an email to the campus community announcing Farrow’s engagement. “I look forward to welcoming this extraordinary humanitarian back to campus and hearing his insights.”

A lawyer with a background in human rights advocacy, Farrow also brings considerable experience as a humanitarian to his role as Special Advisor. Before joining the State Department, he served as a UNICEF Spokesperson in Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan. He has written extensively on issues associated with children in conflict zones, and emphasized outreach to young people in his work, working at the forefront of the student movement on Darfur and touring the country speaking at universities as a Representative for the Genocide Intervention Network.

“One thing I’ve learned is that young people will make themselves heard, whatever it takes,” Farrow says. “When they turn to extremism to accomplish that, young people can be one of the great threats to global stability. But when they harness peaceful tools to make themselves heard, young people can be forceful drivers of economic and social progress.”

“That challenge is just as acute at home as it is abroad. We fail to empower the next generation at the peril of our security and economic primacy. That’s why the mission of Bard College at Simon’s Rock is critical. It’s one of the country’s great institutions focused on empowering young people who are hungry to make a difference, at an age when much of society won’t yet recognize their contributions.”

In 2008, Ronan received Refugees International's McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award, for "extraordinary service to refugees and displaced people." The following year New York Magazine named him "New Activist" of the year, including him on the magazine’s list of individuals "on the verge of changing their worlds.” In 2010, Harper’s Bazaar named him “up-and-coming politician of the year” and a “name to watch in 2011.”

In addition to his many distinctions, Farrow was the youngest student ever admitted to Simon’s Rock, at 11 years of age. At 15 he became the youngest graduate of Bard College, and was 16 when he was admitted to Yale Law School. At the time of his appointment at the State Department he was 21, the youngest political appointee on record.

“Bard is an incredibly cool community, one that gets the need to push the envelope on the kind of students we foster as intellectuals, as creative thinkers, as entrepreneurs” Farrow recalls. “It’s a fun place to be. I’m excited to spend time with so many young people poised to do – and already doing – meaningful work.”