Throughout the month of March, seniors across campus will breathe sighs of relief as they press “save” for the last time on their theses. As these students finish up the final touches on their papers, FM takes a moment to look back at the theses of some notable alumni and their choice of research topics. Not surprisingly, many of these now-famous former seniors wrote about topics that give us a glimpse of who they became. So, read on to learn more about the stars.
John F. Kennedy ’40
Fittingly, JFK was a government concentrator and titled his thesis “Appeasement at Munich (The Inevitable Result of the Slowness of Conversion of the British Democracy from a Disarmament to a Rearmament Policy).” At 148 pages, JFK’s thesis discusses democratic ideals, foreshadowing his future presidency. He may have had some extra help from his father, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Britain at the time. If only we all had such useful sources at hand.
Al Gore ’69
Gore wrote a senior thesis titled “The Impact of Television on the Conduct of the Presidency.” Although his thesis was irrelevant to his current work in environmental affairs, he certainly foreshadowed his time in Washington by researching the presidency. At 84 pages, the future vice president and then-government concentrator showcased his knowledge of ties between domestic affairs and the media. Gore never actually put his thesis argument to the test with a term as president.
Nicholas D. Kristof ’81
Nicholas. D. Kristof ’81, or as he now prefers to be called, simply Nicholas Kristof—wrote his senior thesis in government and titled it “Freedom of the Press in High School Newspapers.” The future journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner wrote 141 pages on a topic about which he was, and continues to be, passionate.
Conan C. O’Brien ’85
The former president of the Harvard Lampoon also wrote his senior thesis on literature. O’Brien wrote 72 pages about the “old child” symbol in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, taking on a more serious topic than he does in most of his tweets.
B.J. Novak ’01
The former “Office” star managed to tie in his passion for television with his senior thesis, which was entitled “‘To Be or Not to Be’: Hollywood’s Answers to Hamlet’s Question.” Novak’s work was 48 pages long and played up both his knowledge of literature as well as his budding awareness of popular culture. Even back then, young Novak was dreaming of a land far, far away from that typical 9-to-5 office job. Well, sort of.