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Pulitzer-Prize Winning Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas to Speak at Carleton

September 29, 2012
By Jacob Cohn '13

Jose Antonio Vargas, a noted journalist and activist whose story about his own status as an undocumented immigrant ranks among the most compelling that he has covered, will present Carleton College’s weekly convocation on Friday, Oct. 5. Convocation is held from 10:50-11:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel, and it is free and open to the public. Convocations are also streamed live and can be viewed online at


In 2011, Vargas wrote a lengthy article for the New York Times Magazine entitled “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” It described how he was sent from the Philippines at an early age to live with his grandparents in California, only to discover at the age of 16 that his green card was a forgery. Vargas managed to conceal his status for 14 years, often with the help of sympathetic friends. He ultimately graduated from San Francisco State University and then embarked on a successful career in journalism. Yet he remained anxious about his secret, stressed from keeping it from his closest friends and guilty about living a lie.

“I tried to compartmentalize my fears, distract myself by reporting on the lives of other people, but there was no escaping the central conflict in my life,” Vargas wrote in the Times Magazine article. “Maintaining a deception for so long distorts your sense of self. You start wondering who you’ve become, and why.”

Finally, in 2011, he decided to come forward and tell his story. The resulting article received widespread media attention and an award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Vargas wrote a follow-up article for TIME magazine in June 2012 about the uncertainty of his status since he revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. In 2011 he founded DefineAmerican, a group that seeks to “bring new voices into the immigration conversation” and contribute to fixing a broken immigration system.

After graduating from San Francisco State University, Vargas was hired by the Washington Post and made his reputation covering the HIV epidemic in Washington; he would go on to cover the 2008 presidential race as well as such topics as the growing video game culture in the United States. In 2007 he was among the reporters honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for their comprehensive coverage of a school shooting at Virginia Tech. Vargas eventually left the Post to become a senior contributing editor and columnist at The Huffington Post. Vargas’s work has also appeared in magazines like the New Yorker and Rolling Stone, and he has appeared on numerous television programs.

For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Office of College Relations at (507) 222-4308. Skinner Memorial Chapel is located on First Street between College and Winona Streets in Northfield.