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‘New York Times’ columnist David Brooks to deliver 2024 Graduates Day address

David Brooks (Howard Schatz / SCHATZ-ORNSTEIN)

David Brooks, an internationally acclaimed journalist whose work has shaped timely conversations around controversial and complex issues, will receive Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal when he speaks at the university’s 2024 Commencement activities. Brooks’ Graduates Day address will be on May 9 at 11 a.m. on The Commons Lawn. A luncheon and party will immediately follow on Magnolia and Peabody lawns. 

The Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal, one of the university’s highest honors, is awarded to individuals who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit. It was created and endowed by Vanderbilt Law School graduate Ed Nichols and his wife, Janice, in honor of Edward Carmack and Lucile Hamby Nichols. 

Brooks has written op-ed columns for The New York Times since 2003. He has authored 11 books, including How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen (Random House, 2023). 

Brooks also serves on the advisory board for The Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy. 

“For more than two decades, David Brooks has thought, written and spoken about American politics and society—how we live together, how we solve problems together, and, just as often, how we don’t—for several of America’s most prominent news organizations and as a bestselling author,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “His exceptional achievements, his documented journey as a lifelong learner, and especially his recent work as a champion of unity and rebuilding social trust in a polarized age, make him a most worthy recipient of our 2024 Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal and a speaker whose timely insights are sure to resonate with our graduates and their families. I look forward to welcoming Mr. Brooks and awarding him this year’s medal.” 

Brooks has been a commentator on PBS NewsHour, NPR’s All Things Considered and NBC’s Meet the Press, and he contributes to The Atlantic magazine. Brooks is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He previously taught an undergraduate course at Yale University titled Humility, examining traditional and contemporary understandings of character. He also taught at Duke University and was a recent fellow at the University of Chicago. 

He founded Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute, an initiative that addresses broken social trust in a polarized society. 

“Not only does Brooks’ work exemplify our shared belief in the values of belonging and community as ways to move society forward, but it can potentially offer entrepreneurial inspiration to our graduates, many of whom have bold aspirations as social innovators,” Diermeier said. 

Brooks graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983 and worked as a police reporter for the City News Bureau, a wire service owned jointly by the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. 

He then worked at The Wall Street Journal from 1986 to 1995, becoming the opinion and editorial page editor. Before he was the op-ed editor, the Journal stationed him in Brussels, covering Russia, the Middle East, South Africa and European affairs. Brooks also served as editor of the book review section, and he filled in for five months as the Journal’s movie critic. 

Brooks joined the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard in 1995 before arriving at The New York Times. 

Past recipients of the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal include Maria Ressa, Reid Hoffman, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Caroline Kennedy, Venus Williams, Amal Clooney, Toni Morrison and Condoleezza Rice. 

Brooks’ address will be part of the university’s 2024 Commencement celebrations. The event will also be livestreamed. Graduates Day celebrates all graduates and traditionally occurs the day before the university’s Commencement ceremony, which is scheduled this year for May 10 at Geodis Park.