Ithaca College Quarterly, Summer 1998

Terry Anderson
Three friends

By Garry VanGorder

He was once contemptuous of politics and lacking in faith. But journalist, educator, and former Middle East hostage Terry Anderson counseled some 1,300 Ithaca College graduates against adopting similar views as they seek to build successful lives in an increasingly complex, difficult world.

"We read in detail about the weakness and the sins of our leaders; we see so many well-meant efforts smothered by self-interest and greed. But even with that you cannot turn away from the political process," said Anderson, speaking at the College’s May 17 Commencement ceremonies at Butterfield Stadium. "This is the system we use here to decide questions of public importance. It’s how we reach agreement on the purposes and principles of our society and compromise on the problems that divide us. There are lots of worse ways to do that. I’ve seen them. And I’ll take politics."

Now an associate professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a Scripps Howard visiting professional at the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, Anderson joined the Associated Press in 1974, covering the Far East and southern Africa before being assigned to the Beirut bureau in 1982. On March 16, 1985, Anderson was snatched at gunpoint from the streets of Beirut while reporting on the civil war in Lebanon. Often chained and blindfolded, sometimes beaten, and even subjected to a mock execution, Anderson relied on his own toughness and that of his fellow hostages to survive. "We spent a lot of time talking with each other, arguing with each other, learning from each other, keeping our minds alive, being resources for each other. That was one of the things that helped keep me sane, helped keep me alive."  

Passing the fountains


Former hostage Terry Anderson counsels the graduating class of '98 to "keep the faith," to be resources for each other, and to never stop learning.

Photography by John Crispin except where otherwise credited.

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