gideon rose: international editor
On a bright, hot day in July, Gideon Rose [Senior Student ’79] stands on the steps outside Yale University’s Sterling Hall. Dressed in a blue button-down shirt and charcoal slacks, Rose has just come from the Ivy League lecture hall, where as a featured presenter for the Exploration Senior Program’s “Speaker Series,” he talked with students about his specialty: international policy.
On the steps, he talks with a small group, discussing his mentors in the field, his friends, his passions, and how he got his start. He looks at his watch. “Oh my gosh,” he says. “I need to get going if I’m going to catch my train back to the city.”
For the past eight years, Rose has been the managing editor of Foreign Affairs, a bi-monthly magazine recognized for its singular expertise on matters of international relations. Rose assumed the position in 2000, replacing his friend, the noted political journalist Fareed Zakaria. Before coming to the magazine, he taught at Princeton and Columbia, and worked on the National Security Council for the Clinton Administration.
"We're trying to think rigorously about the great problems of the world today," Rose says about his work at the magazine. "If, as an editor, you have the humility to be largely behind the scenes, then it's a wonderful job."
Standing at the front of Sterling Hall, Rose’s speech to the Exploration students was a short one.
With an audience of about 150 students, Rose introduced himself with a few words. He spoke briefly about his past work and then about the dynamics and routines of his current position. Less than ten minutes after he had begun, Rose finished his speech.
Instead of talking more, Rose said that he wanted to open up the floor to the crowd of students, inviting them to ask questions about today's prominent political issues. And so the discussion began.
And for the next hour and fifteen minutes, Rose fielded queries from students and debated a range of topics – nuclear weapons in North Korea, genocide in Darfur, job loss in America, and the ramifications of China's growing economy, among many others.
When Rose spoke, he donned the journalistic cap in favor of the editorialist’s, offering insights that were less his own opinions and more a coherent synthesis of the thinking being done on these issues by the world's leading policy experts. On and on, Rose and Explo students talked about some of the world's most urgent issues.
When the event concluded, students came forward to talk to Rose individually. Gathered at the foot of the stage, some asked follow-up questions, others posed topics that hadn’t been touched on, and others simply thanked Rose and told him how much they enjoyed hearing him talk.
“I never would have imagined myself fascinated by foreign policy issues,” said Emma Messore, an eleventh grade student in attendance. “Sitting in the audience, I realized that I was discovering a new interest.”
Afterward, while walking from the lecture hall to catch his train back to New York City, Rose said that he enjoys his place in the middle ground of today’s political discussion: close enough to know the central players and points, but with enough distance to keep an eye on all the major issues. Any closer and he would sacrifice breadth of knowledge; any farther and he would sacrifice expertise.
"Working for Foreign Affairs, you have to think clearly and write clearly about important things," he said. "Academics and policy wonks think about important things. Journalists write clearly. I get the luxury, and the challenge, of trying to do both."
As such, Rose said that his goal is to publish articles that, in addition to being comprehensive, are also comprehensible. Clarity, he said, is a quality often missing in today's scholarly writing.
"An academic knows how to think," he says. "A policy wonk knows the facts. And a journalist knows how to write. If those are three points on a triangle, I’m aiming for writing that falls right in the middle."