The University of Chicago announced last week that Bret Stephens (‘95) will be the keynote speaker for the pre-convocation Class Day ceremony on Friday, June 2. Currently a columnist for The New York Times, he has long been a fixture in journalism and in the conservative intellectual movement.
Stephens was previously the editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post and a deputy editorial page editor and foreign affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and his work for the latter publication won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2013.
Despite the College’s commitment to free speech and Stephens’ sterling credentials, his planned appearance at the College is not without its critics. One poster on Facebook charged that “Stephens does not represent your institution well” due to his recent column declaring that mask mandates “did nothing.”
Another commenter claimed that Stephens is “racist, anti-Black, transphobic, a zionist, a supporter of [U.S.] imperialism,” among other descriptive adjectives.
Many know Stephens best for his musings on foreign affairs and, in recent years, on Donald Trump. The columnist has advocated for a more interventionist American posture, arguing in recent years against the Iran nuclear deal and in support of the State of Israel. He has also strongly opposed former President Donald Trump and his conduct as both a candidate and officeholder.
The Significance of the Class Day Ceremony
Regarding the Class Day ceremony for which Stephens will serve as a speaker, the university notes, “The tradition marks the start of Convocation weekend and will celebrate the numerous accomplishments of graduating students in the College.”
UChicago’s decision to invite Stephens aligns with the university’s firm commitment to open inquiry and the vibrant exchange of ideas. Previous Class Day speakers have included Valerie Jarrett, a top official in the Obama White House, and David Brooks, a political columnist at The New York Times known for his moderate conservative views.
* A minor error in quote reproduction was corrected.