Allen Pietrobon, currently a Visiting Professor of American History at Trinity University, has been selected to give the commencement speech for the December 2016 graduation ceremony at AU. In May 2016, Pietrobon defended his dissertation in the History Dept. at AU and received his Ph.D. in American History and Foreign Policy. A revised version of his dissertation, which analyzes the life and times of Norman Cousins, a prominent anti-nuclear activist and “citizen diplomat” during the Kennedy administration, is currently undergoing review at Johns Hopkins University Press, which has expressed interest in publishing it. Originally from Canada, Pietrobon began his studies at AU in 2010 under the mentorship of Prof. Peter Kuznick, while also working closely with Prof. Max Paul Friedman. Though he originally only planned to come to the United States to complete his Ph.D., Pietrobon says, the networks and contacts that he established here during his time at AU have led him to setting down more permanent roots.
As for what he plans to say in his commencement speech, Pietrobon revealed that he intends to present a historically informed message of hope and optimism as an antidote to the negative tone and tenor of the recent presidential election campaign. Drawing upon his extensive research on Norman Cousins, Pietrobon will highlight how Cousins responded to the “widespread despair and division” that accompanied the advent of the atomic age near three-quarters of a century ago. “In the face of a global and national situation that appeared bleak,” Pietrobon says of Cousins, “he was a rare and refreshing voice advocating for optimism.” As a historian, Pietrobon lays stress upon the fact that few things in our world are truly “unprecedented,” and that lessons drawn from similar situations in our past can always yield fruitful answers for the future.