Declaring empirical truth "under siege," journalist Jeffrey Goldberg urged Johns Hopkins University graduates to trust reason and knowledge as their guiding principles.
"You possess the core value of the Enlightenment: that it is possible, through the application of rational thought, skepticism, analytic rigor, and reason to discern the truth," Goldberg told the crowd of more than 1,500 graduates and their guests at the universitywide Commencement ceremony at Baltimore's Royal Farms Arena.
Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, began his remarks Thursday with several lighthearted and humorous moments before shifting his focus to decidedly more serious matters—rising threats to "our common understanding of what constitutes truth" and America's "compromised" immune system to disinformation.
"Like many of you, I had been under the impression that America, the mature democracy that it is, is more resilient in the face of conspiracy-mongering and disinformation than other countries," he said. "But I was wrong."
As a bulwark against these threats, Goldberg touted the importance of "knowledge-producing institutions," including government agencies that conduct research, media outlets that value facts, and universities.
"In fact, this university is one of the most indispensably important knowledge-producing institutions in the world," he said of Johns Hopkins.
"It is your responsibility, as soon-to-be graduates of this great center of knowledge, not to ignore this phenomenon, but to fight it at every turn," Goldberg told the Class of 2019. "By fighting disinformation, by fighting for the truth, you will invest the degrees that you are receiving with true meaning."
One of the nation's leading national security writers, Goldberg previously served as a correspondent for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and New York magazine. He joined The Atlantic in 2007 and became managing editor of the 162-year-old magazine in 2016. He is also author of the acclaimed 2006 book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship.
At Thursday's ceremony, Goldberg was one of six recipients of an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.