When the truth makes us uncomfortable, it's much easier to look away. American journalist, columnist, and author Thomas L. Friedman refuses to allow us that indulgence. He insists on focusing attention where it is needed most - on issues such as energy independence, immigration law, terrorism, and globalization.
For the clarity of his vision, which has helped millions of readers see the world in a new way, we honor him today.
Friedman is a New York Times columnist, an internationally acclaimed author, and a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Educated at Brandeis University and Later at Oxford, he joined the New York Times in 1981, and soon after was appointed Beirut bureau chief. His reporting from Lebanon led to his first Pulitzer in 1983, for international reporting. In 1984, Friedman was transferred to Jerusalem, where his work as Israel bureau chief earned a second Pulitzer. His book, From Beirut to Jerusalem (1989), won the National Book Award for nonfiction.
Friedman became the New York Times' foreign affairs columnist in 1995, and from this platform, his powerful public voice has taken on the most pressing issues of the day. A strong advocate of globalization, he wrote The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (1999), which won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award and has been published in 27 languages.
In 2002, Friedman won his third Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his extensive reporting and commentary on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat. His book, Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 (2002), includes columns reflecting on the post-9/11 world.
In 2004, Queen Elizabeth the II awarded Friedman with the Overseas Press Club Award for lifetime achievement, and with it, the honorary title Order of the British Empire. In 2005, Friedman published The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, which won the Goldman Sachs/Financial Times Business Book of the Year award.
Friedman's most recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Reveolution - And How it Can Renew America (2008), examines how America can lead the world in the pursuit of green energy technology, and how doing so could refocus our sense of purpose.
Since she graduated from Grinnell in 1972, Jodie Levin-Epstein has carried with her a Grinnellian's dedication to social justice through all seasons, whether favorable or hostile to the difficult work of building an equitable world. Even as a new administration headed by a former community organizer takes the helm in Washington, D.C., economic hard times are making her work against poverty and for decent working conditions for the most vulnerable workers more vital than ever.
Ms. Levin-Epstein is deputy director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). She has also served the center as a senior policy analyst, a job in which she published extensively on issues such as paid sick leave, labor standards, and workplace flexibility. Among her more recent titles for CLASP is "Getting Punched: The Job and Family Clock." Her 2006 report, "Targeting Poverty: Aim at a Bull's Eye," describes and identifies recent efforts around the nation to set targets for the elimination or reduction of poverty. In addition, Ms. Levin-Epstein is responsible for creating, managing, and hosting CLASP's widely acclaimed national audio confrences on low-income and poverty issues. Her earlier work with CLASP included initiating a network of stat contacts and establishing CLASP's reporductive health project.
Prior to joining CLASP, Ms. Levin-Epstein was the deputy director of Advocates for Yourth. She also served as an aide to Sen. Dick Clark and as a political appointee at the Department of Agriculture in the Caryter administration. She was selecte3d to be a member of several prestigious working groups, including a White House Task Force on Hunger and the National Academy of Sciences World Hunger Study Team.
Year in and year out, Ms. Levin-Epstein has dedicated herself to proideing policymakers and legislators at all levels with a view of the effects of their plans and policies on real people - adults and children alike. In grounding these public policy debates in lived reality, she has been a voice for the voiceless.
Yet amid all the demands of her work for the public good, she has found time to be an active volunteer for Grinnell College.
Grinnell College is privileged to recognize Jodie Levin-Epstein for the key role she has played in the re-emergence of poverty as a central issue in recent public discourse.
John F. "Fritz" Schwaller's career in higher education, spanning more than 30 years, has been characterized by a questing curiosity, leading him always to explore fruitful new avenues of inquiry and to adopt new tools for reaching time-honored ends. Whether as teacher or administrator, he seeks to take into account the full context in which people act.
After earning a bachelor of arts degree in history from Grinnell in 1969, he went on to earn a master of arts in Spanish from the University of Kansas in 1971 and a doctorate in history from Indiana University in 1978. A distinguished scholar of early colonial Latin America, and of the Nahuatl language and the Nahua or Aztec people, he is the author of five books and the editor of three others, along with many articles and presentations. His engagement with his material moves beyond sterile specialization to a search for comprehensive mastery of his field. He is known for his early recognition of the Internet's possibilities for building an even closer community of scholars.
Dr. Schwaller has had an equally distinguished career in academic administration, from his directorship of the Academy of American Franciscan History at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., to a series of administrative positions at Florida Atlantic University, the University of Montana-Missoula, and the University of Minnesota-Morris, and, since 2007, as president of the State University of New York-Potsdam. In all these positions, his intellectual rigor and attention to the wider context has allowed him to discover ways around obstacles of all kinds to realize his vision of academic excellence, not only for himself, but also for coming generations.
An inspiring teacher, Dr. Schwaller was named Distinguished Teacher of the Year from the College of Arts and Humanities at Florida Atlantic University. A dedicated scholar, he has served his discipline devotedly as a member of the American Catholic Historical Association, chair of the program committee of the American Historical Association Conference on Latin American History, president of the Rocky Mountain Council of Latin American Studies, and U.S. delegate to the History Commission of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History. His service extends beyond the walls of the academy: he is an engaged churchman and Boy Scout leader, as well as a longtime volunteer for Grinnell College.
It takes great courage and strength of character for a career public servant to publicly oppose senior government officials. When A. Gregory Thielmann '72, a career State Department officer, spoke out publicly about what he called the Bush administration's "gross distortion" of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War, he demonstrated such courage.
"There is no higher crime in a democracy than to deceive the people about reasons for going to war," Thielmann told the Grinnell Magazine in 2004. "A lot of Americans were going to die as a consequence."
After his 2002 retirement from the State Department, Thielmann publicly challenged the Bush administration's interpretation of the intelligence. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof quoted Thielmann in May 2003, stating that the Bush administration was misrepresenting the intelligence about the immediate security threats Iraq could pose to the United States, particularly regarding weapons of mass destruction. He also appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes II, PBS' Now with Bill Moyers, and in the pages of The New Yorker and The New Republic.
Educated at Grinnell College and later at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Thielmann built a successful and productive career at the State Department spanning a quarter of a century. He joined in 1977 with what he calls a "deep patriotic motive" to pursue public service. Thielmann dedicated most of his career at the State Department to work on security issues such as arms control. He was part of several major breakthroughs, including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons. His work earned significant recognition, including a U.S. Intelligence Community award for work on the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research's Soviet Coup Task Force in 1991.
Like other Grinnellians before him - perhaps most notably Joseph Welch 1914, who publicly stood up to communist witch-hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy - Greg Thielmann has demonstrated the moral courage and leadership to speak truth to power. Grinnell College is proud to honor him today.