COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES, MAY 19, 2019
Doctor of Journalism
Citation presented by Erik Love
Associate Professor of Sociology
Conferring of the degree by Margee M. Ensign, President
Karen Attiah, as an innovative journalist, you have provided us with a bold, clear vision of social justice on a global scale. Your career has taken you from your hometown near Dallas, Texas, to your undergraduate education at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, to Accra, Ghana, as a Fulbright Scholar, to Columbia University, where you earned your master’s degree in international affairs, to the World Bank, where you specialized in Africa and social media.
You worked as a freelance reporter in Willemstad, Curacao, writing articles on the relationship between diaspora communities and globalization, economics and electoral politics. Then, when many were unwilling to travel there, you went to Yola, Nigeria, to report on Boko Haram, the militant group leading a violent uprising. While there, you spent time with students at the American University in Nigeria and worked to support local journalists.
Today, you are based at the Washington Post, where you serve as global opinions editor. Since joining the Post, you have written on a remarkable range of issues while commissioning commentary from all around the world. As star of the Post’s opinion video series “Too Long; Didn’t Read,” or for those of you born after 1999, “tl;dr,” you have examined how “family separation is an American tradition,” argued that “black women are the ideal American voters” and demanded that elites “stop looking at Africa with a colonial gaze.”
Among the many activists and journalists you have worked with is the late Jamal Khashoggi. You reached out to him in 2017, and shortly thereafter he wrote his first piece for the Post on the “unbearable” repression in his native country, Saudi Arabia. You worked with him closely until he was brutally assassinated in 2018.
Since then, you have tirelessly advocated for the freedom of the press and for an end to the U.S.- and Saudi-supported war in Yemen, and you have demanded justice and accountability in Saudi Arabia and beyond. You recently announced the Jamal Khashoggi Fellowship at the Post, dedicated to providing a powerful platform for voices from Muslim communities.
Last month, when you accepted a 2019 Media Award from the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, you spoke of Jamal Khashoggi as a runner in a relay race for justice. When one of those runners falls, you said, we must “pick up the baton” and “continue the race.”
President Ensign, for her journalistic achievements and commitment to justice, I am honored to present to you Karen Attiah for the honorary degree of Doctor of Journalism.
Karen Attiah, upon the recommendation of the faculty to the Board of Trustees, and by its mandamus, I confer upon you the Degree of Doctor of Journalism, honoris causa, with all the rights, privileges and distinction thereunto appertaining, in token of which I present you with this diploma and cause you to be invested with the hood of Dickinson College appropriate to the degree.