Q&A: NPR’s Guy Raz to Speak at PZ Commencement

Pitzer College announced Thursday that acclaimed National Public Radio journalist Guy Raz will be the commencement speaker for the class of 2017. Raz is currently the host and editorial director for TED Radio Hour, a co-production of TED and NPR, and has worked at NPR for 20 years.

Pitzer Senior Class President Chance Kawar PZ ’17 said of Raz, “he has embraced values such as intercultural understanding and interdisciplinary learning throughout his career by creating the kind of thought-provoking content for which [NPR] is well-known and beloved.”

Raz will donate the financial compensation recieved from Pitzer to TheDream.US Foundation, which helps undocumented students obtain scholarships to college.

Raz talked about his life and why TheDream.US is significant to him in a Q&A with TSL

TSL: How has your journalistic experience informed your perspective of the world that Pitzer students are graduating into, and how do you see that impacting the advice that you have for them?

Guy Raz: As a war reporter and a foreign and domestic correspondent for NPR and CNN, I have been fortunate enough to see the worst of humanity and the best. I have seen genuine kindness and generosity in hostile war zones and cruelty and selfishness in the most comfortable and prosperous places… Humans have behaved — more or less — in the same way since we began to spread out across the globe 50,000 years ago. The only difference today is we have created laws and norms that are designed to moderate our behavior.

The path we choose as a species always depends on the stakeholders in charge… The question for Pitzer graduates is what kind of stakeholders do they want to be? 

TSL: Why have you chosen to donate your keynote speaker award to the Dream.US foundation? What significance does this foundation hold for you?

GR: I’m the child of immigrants. Though my parents’ arrival here as students was not fraught nor did it involve fleeing from war or violence, it wasn’t easy. Still, I’m inspired by their story.

Immigrants are good for America. Diversity is good for America… TheDream.US provides crucial resources for first-generation Americans to attend college. It allows Dreamers and others who do not have the same privileges and opportunities as native-born Americans to attend college and make an impact on their community and country.

TSL: What, in your eyes, is the purpose of a commencement address?

GR: I’m not here to lay out a template on what a meaningful and fulfilled life is all about. I’m not here to say, 'hey, follow what I do and you’ll be great!' but rather to say, 'you are the source of your own happiness, wisdom and values. You will not find the answers in a guru or wise man/woman or a public radio host! You will find those answers inside of you as you start to embark on your journey.' 

TSL: Why did you want to speak at Pitzer? Why are you excited about it?

GR: I’m super excited about coming to Pitzer because Pitzer is a community that values social justice, diversity, an exchange of ideas, and kindness. To me, the most powerful form of resistance and disruption an individual can assert is by being kind. Kindness is resistance in an unkind world. 

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