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Home > Commencement Speaker Announced

Top Conservative Commentator to Address Grads

May 4th, 2009


By Cherise E. Ryan

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727

Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard

Patrick Henry College is pleased to welcome one of the nation’s most accomplished conservative political journalists, Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, as the Commencement speaker for 2009. A keen observer of the national political scene, Mr. Barnes has had a lengthy career as an editor, correspondent, conservative columnist and TV pundit covering national politics. He has covered the White House, and the Supreme Court for such publications as the New Republic, the Baltimore Sun, and the American Spectator.

Until recently, Barnes was also a co-host of the Beltway Boys on the Fox News Channel and regularly appears on Fox's Special Report. A journalistic veteran, he has interviewed American presidents from Reagan to Clinton to Bush, moderated a presidential debate, and written or spoken on just about every Washington political issue of the past several decades. He has appeared regularly on Nightline, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  Barnes has much to share with young, aspiring leaders—everything from his experience with a lifetime of hard work and excellent reporting to his canny analysis of the current political and journalistic scene.

“Fred has a shoe-leather ability to go and pull good reporting,” says Michael Cromartie, Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in D.C. “He is known for being fair and balanced, and he is respected as a political reporter who has a lot of sources. People know they can get the inside scoop by reading him.”

Barnes accepted Christ mid-life. He says that this has affected him in many ways, including making him better at journalism. “I could write better, faster, do more—I was a different person.” He says he could suddenly understand when a boxer or other athlete credited God with “being in their corner”—a term he used to laugh at.

“I wouldn’t be the same person without the impact it has had on me,” he says.

PHC professor and former TIME magazine correspondent Dr. David Aikman met Barnes in 1986, when he started a Christian journalists’ group. He describes him as “unfailingly gracious,” always “willing to put himself out for people who need a professional leg up. And he is consistently fair.”

This fairness, as contrasted with “objectivity,” is something Barnes consciously pursues. He has always held that you can communicate an opinion and still present other people’s positions fairly.

“You can’t take cheap shots or falsify information,” he says. “That means your writing may not be as powerful as you’d like sometimes. But it is still an obligation.”

As this year’s new PHC graduates move forward into an uncertain world, Barnes will send them off with a seasoned perspective on how to live and work faithfully as a Christian in a challenging career. In spite of the political climate, he says his job is clear.

“I want to write about the stuff that interests me—namely politics,” he says. “and write it well, in a way that sometimes expresses my viewpoint, but sometimes just tells people what’s going on that they haven’t heard before.”

Barnes recently spoke to a special group of our journalism students at PHC's Excellence in Journalism Lecture at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He graduated from the University of Virginia and was Neiman Fellow at Harvard University.

According to the Registrar's Office, roughly 73 students will be participating in Commencement 2009, after which PHC will have graduated over 300 students in its history.