Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak speaks at FDU's Florham Campus

Encourages students to “dare to dream and dare to act”

ehud barak 1

Above: Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001, spoke to students and faculty at Hennessy Hall’s Hartman Lounge during his visit to FDU’s Florham Campus on October 27. (Photos by Dan Landau)


By Madinah Muhammad

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak visited Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus on October 27 to talk with students and faculty before his scheduled evening lecture at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J., as part of FDU’s New Jersey Speaker Series.

In an intimate presentation in Hartman Lounge in Hennessy Hall, Barak had a wide-ranging conversation and Q&A session moderated by David Rosen, professor of anthropology and sociology, hitting on topics such as Barak’s experience as prime minister, the current geopolitical situation in the Middle East and the growth of terrorism. He also offered an inspirational message for students.

Barak served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001. He entered politics following a 35-year career as a highly decorated officer in the Israeli military. He led Israel’s Labor Party from 1996 to 2011 and served as Minister of Defense under Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and later Benjamin Netanyahu. He left government service in 2012.

ehud barak 2Above: Florham Campus students met with Ehud Barak during his visit. His advice to students included an admonition to “dare to think independently, dare to dream, dare to defy all conventional wisdom.” Pictured from left to right are: Athena Zinn, Hannah Govrin, Katelyn Ide, Barak, Ethan Reiss, and Moran Shevach.


Opening his presentation, Barak reminisced about his time studying in the United States, saying “two of the best years of my life were as a graduate student at Stanford University. I learned there that American universities are not just shaping America’s future but also the future leadership of the whole world.”

He continued, telling students that they should not let their age keep them from doing great things. He noted how Nobel Prizes are given out to people his age or older, but in recognition of accomplishments they achieved decades prior. “Any evolution in science, politics, religion, economy, was all done by young people.”

“Dare to think independently; dare to dream; dare to act; dare to defy all conventional wisdom and dogma,” he encouraged the students.

barak 3Above: David Rosen, professor of anthropology and sociology, moderated a discussion  with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Barak and Rosen shifted gears and talked about Barak’s tenure as prime minister and the current situation in the Middle East. “The Middle East is a really tough neighborhood,” said Barak. “Israel is strong, self-confident and should take care of itself in a tough neighborhood, which is going to remain tough for the foreseeable future.”

Barak also talked about the 2000 Camp David Summit, a meeting brokered by President Bill Clinton between Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. While the summit did not yield a final agreement, Barak said “I do not accept the idea that the [peace process] is over.” Barak is hopeful for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We have to move forward in a mutually respectful way.”

barak 4

The 2016-17 New Jersey Speaker Series continues on December 1 with a panel discussion on “Racism in America” with former NPR host Michele Norris; Wall Street Journal columnist and author Jason Riley; and Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The New Jersey Speakers series brings world leaders, acclaimed authors and other fascinating personalities to NJPAC for seven Thursday evening presentations, each of which is followed by an audience Q&A with the featured speakers. Presented by FDU, the New Jersey Speakers Series is sponsored by NJPAC, WCBS Newsradio (880 AM), and Star-Ledger. For tickets or information, visit, or call 1-888-MY-NJPAC or 1-888-696-5722.