Famed journalist David Broder will be awarded alumni medal

By Zach Werner

Washington Post political correspondent David Broder, A.B.,’47, A.M.,’51, will receive the prestigious Alumni Medal honoring exceptional career achievement at the Alumni Convocation on June 4. The Medal—the highest honor that the Alumni Association can bestow—is given to no more than one person each year.

“The award means a great deal to me because I owe so much to the University of Chicago,” Broder said. “The College was a wonderful place to go to school. It taught me to read and to write and to think. It also taught me all the basics of journalism through working on the Maroon. I owe them damn near everything.”

Broder currently writes a twice-weekly column on American political life that is syndicated in more than 300 newspapers, making him the most widely read columnist in the United States. He also appears regularly on the NBC show Meet the Press and on CNN’s Inside Politics.

Although Broder has won numerous awards throughout his career—including a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 1973—he said he especially values the Alumni Medal. “This is different because in the world of journalism we love to give each other prizes,” he said. “I regard this as being a true accolade from people who have no possible motivation other than a wish to recognize someone who is a graduate of the University.”

Broder enjoys an exemplary reputation among journalists and politicians, many of who wrote in support of his nomination for the Alumni Medal. Donald E. Graham, chairman of the Washington Post wrote, “David is the greatest political reporter in the United States and has been for the last 40 years.”

The late U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois praised Broder for providing, “balance and insight and a personal integrity that is recognized widely by people in both political parties.”

Warren Buffet, the successful businessman and investor, also supported Broder’s nomination. “In political journalism, there’s David Broder—and then there is everyone else. The second group doesn’t count. David out works, out thinks, and out writes anyone in the field,” Buffet wrote.

Broder joined the Washington Post in 1966 and has written both news and opinion stories over the course of his career. Prior to the Post, he covered national politics for The New York Times (1965-66), The Washington Star (1960-65), and Congressional Quarterly (1955-60).

In addition, Broder has authored seven books on politics and journalism, most recently Democracy Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money (2000).

Before his professional success, Broder served as editor of the Maroon, an experience that he said immensely impacted both his career and his life. Not only did he gain valuable training in journalism, but he also met the woman he would eventually marry working on the newspaper, Ann C. Broder, A.B. ’48, A.M. ’51.

Broder has literally traveled a long way since his days writing for the Maroon. He has reported on every national campaign and convention since 1960, journeying around 100,000 miles each election year to report on the voters and candidates.

Broder said his experience as a journalist has changed his viewpoint, not his job. “I’m basically doing the same thing now that I started out doing,” he said. “Your perspective changes over time as you would hope you learn something and don’t repeat exactly the same mistakes you’ve made before. There’s no question that age and long years on the beat have shaped the way I think about things.”

Broder said he views the nation’s current generation of political leaders as destructively divisive. “People in both parties have been shaped by forces that make it very difficult for them to reach any kind of agreement of any serious substance,” he said. “Since the boomers moved into their positions of near-ultimate authority they’ve had real difficulty finding much trust among themselves. This generation that’s now in college may very well inherit a mess and have to straighten it out. I hope I’m wrong.”

If Broder is correct, however, he said that the country’s next cadre of political leaders shall need the type of intellectual faculties developed at the University of Chicago. “The great advantage of a Chicago education is you are looking with a perspective that’s historical, philosophical and very systematic,” he said. “The kind of intellectual training that Chicago is noted for is a very useful tool at this point, and it will be more and more useful as this generation takes more and more control running the country. Being able to step back and question everyone’s assumptions is really critical at a time like this.”

Broder will receive the Alumni Medal and speak at the Alumni Convocation at 10:30 a.m. on June 4 in Rockefeller Chapel. The student winners of the Howell Murray Award for co-curricular achievement will also be recognized in the same ceremony, which is free and open to the public.