Steven Erlanger '70 is the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for The New York Times. He is also the most recent Taft alumnus to be awarded the Horace Dutton Taft Alumni Medal, the school's highest alumni honor, given to those whose life work best typifies the school motto: Not to be ministered unto but to minister.
"Steve Erlanger has served in profound, powerful, and brave ways," said Head of School Willy MacMullen '78 in presenting Erlanger with the Alumni Medal on the Bingham stage during Morning Meeting this week. "He has served the work of journalists; he has served those whose stories might never be told; he has served the truth; and he has served humanity."
As a Taft student, Erlanger served as editor-in-chief of The Papyrus and as a member of the theater troupe, Masque and Dagger. The intersection of those experiences helped define Erlanger's life as a journalist. In his Morning Meeting talk, he recalled the tragic, accidental death of a student while building a Masque and Dagger set—which was followed days later by the death of a beloved Taft teacher.
"As the editor of The Papyrus, it was a story we had to do," Erlanger told the Taft community. "We had to pulse these two stories together in a way that would be both accurate and appropriate—that would capture the broken spirit of this school. So I could bury my feelings into the story—into journalism. For good or ill, I've done that much of my life."
Throughout his talk, Erlanger wove together personal experiences and global events, while sharing insights gleaned from the unique and extraordinary perspective afforded by both, which he effectively distilled for Taft students: "Be skeptical of authority, conquer your fear, trust in yourself, think hard about your choices."
Watch Stever Erlanger's Morning Meeting talk, including a question and answer session with Taft students, below. Read more about his career here. (Note this talk contains descriptions of war and tragedy.)