The 2008 Commencement speaker for NSU's Undergraduate Commencement Exercises was former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson. He addressed an audience of more than 5,000 students, family members, and friends at the ceremony in the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida.
A member of the U.S. diplomatic service from 1976 through 1998, Wilson served as acting ambassador to Iraq during Operation Desert Shield. As the last American official to meet with Saddam Hussein before the start of the 1990 Gulf War, Wilson worked to free more than 100 American hostages after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. President George H. Bush praised his efforts, calling Wilson "a true American hero."
Serving in the administrations of both major parties, Wilson's highly decorated diplomatic career later encompassed posts as ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, as well as senior government appointments, including senior director for African Affairs at the National Security Council and political advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, Europe.
In 2002, Wilson was sent by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from Niger to advance Iraq's nuclear program. He publicly concluded that there was no truth to the claims. Shortly thereafter, a leak exposed his wife as a CIA operative in news reports, which resulted in four federal felony convictions against Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
The former ambassador is known for his timely and astute insights on international policy, particularly toward Iraq and the Middle East. Wilson is the author of the July 2003 New York Times Op-Ed piece "What I Didn't Find in Africa" and the memoir The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir, in which he shares stories gained through two decades of diplomatic service and outlines his recommendations for future policies.
Among Wilson's awards are the Physicians for Social Responsibility Peacemaker Award (2007), and the ACLU's National Civil Liberties Award (2007). In October 2003, he received the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, awarded to an individual or organization that has brought an important issue to light, from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. Wilson's additional honors include: the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the University of California/Santa Barbara Distinguished Alumnus Award, and the American Foreign Service Association William R. Rivkin Award.
For more information about the Distinguished Speakers Series, contact the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences at (954) 262-8236.
Links to more information about Joseph Wilson include: