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Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Launches New Year

<nathan Capehart '89: “Without question, just about every wonderful thing that’s happened to me since graduation can be tracked back to my decision to go to Carleton.”

Not many convocation speakers pull out a handkerchief, and wipe away tears when they reach the podium. But for journalist Jonathan Capehart, a graduate of the class of 1989, returning to speak at his alma mater brought back a rush of tearful nostalgia.

“I’m going to try not to cry,” Capehart said, after pulling out his phone to photograph the audience. Soon after, he produced a handkerchief, and cried.

“My goal today is to get you to see the power and importance of having a dream, a north star if you will,” Capehart said, adding, “I hope you’ll embrace the need to take risks, and the lessons learned from failure.”

Capehart’s journalistic career began in high school, when he interned for NBC. He then moved to the print media, serving as the youngest-ever member for the New York Daily News editorial board. After a 16-month campaign working on a series of editorials regarding Harlem’s Apollo Theater in 1999, Capehart won a Pulitzer Prize. Capehart currently writes for The Washington Post’s “PostPartisan” blog and is a contributor for MSNBC.

President Steven Poskanzer introduced Jonathan Capehart ‘89 by discussing his days at Carleton when he had “all the key qualities of a bold and hard-hitting journalist,” with an ear for stories, and a passion for investigating and understanding. Capehart came to Carleton from New Jersey, launching his media career at Carleton as editor of a new investigative journal, the “Carleton Observer Weekly.”

“He asked challenging questions, and held administrative and fellow student leaders accountable,” said Poskanzer, of Capehart’s old Carletonian columns.

“Back then I was a kid with big dreams, but not a clue about how to achieve them,” said Capehart. Honored by the invitation to speak at Carleton, he said his speech “was an excuse to talk to the students, particularly the freshmen, and tell them some of the things I didn’t know or fully understand when I sat where you are sitting 28 years ago.”

Capehart urged students to find a dream that motivated them. From the age of ten on, Capehart dreamed of becoming a television news personality and would eagerly tell adults when asked about his dreams.

He advised students to find guardian angles, because no one can fulfill their dreams alone. He attributed his success to the many people in his life who advised and helped him succeed in his journalism career.

Finally, Capehart counseled students to take risks and to not fear failure in order to grow to their full potential. He recounted how he switched from a full-time job with health benefits as a newspaper reporter to a job, which had no health benefits and guaranteed only three months employment to be a television reporter.

“Just about every wonderful thing that has happened to me since graduation can be traced back to my decision to come to Carleton.  Twenty-eight years from now when you are standing in this spot, I hope you will be able to say the same,” said Capehart.

These words disseminated over a packed convocation filled with Carleton students and faculty.

“It was one of the best convos that I have ever seen and I cried when he cried,” said Emily Pence ’15.

Carleton’s newest students also found the convocation both entertaining and inspirational. “It showed what a Carleton student could go and achieve,” said J.D. Slaugh ’17.

“I really noticed how he kept going back to how much he loved Carleton. It made [me] feel very grateful for being here,” said Nick Lorenz ’17.

 “I know for me at least it reaffirmed my choice to come here; it filled me with pride to know I go to a college that can still affect you twenty-eight years in the future,” said Hannah Neville ’14.

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