By Carolyn Kellogg
1:00 PM EDT, October 17, 2013
Alongside our heaps of reality television personalities, Kardashian-style celebrities and teenage pop stars, the United States is poised to get something it sorely needs: a public intellectual.
Ronan Farrow has the celebrity background. He's the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen -- or so it was thought until earlier this month, when his mother coyly hinted to Vanity Fair that his father might be Frank Sinatra. Either way, he's clearly got celebrity lineage.
But he's also got intellectual chops. The 25-year-old was a Rhodes Scholar and has a degree from Yale Law School, where he was the editor of "The Yale Journal of International Affairs." In 2004, Farrow was the youngest person ever to graduate from Bard College -- just 15 -- having double-majored in biology and philosophy.
With those two factors, Farrow could look forward to a successful life in academia, flecked with the occasional overflow of celebrity attention brought on by his family. That's not the path he's taking, however.
He's been a diplomat, serving as special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on global youth issues during the Arab Spring, and with U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke as a special advisor for humanitarian and NGO affairs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier, he worked with UNICEF on issues in Nigeria, Angola and the Darfur region of Sudan. In his Twitter bio, he describes himself as an "undiplomatic diplomat."
He's going to start hosting a television show in 2014 on MSNBC, the network announced Wednesday. "I think what people crave is more involvement in the story," Farrow told the Hollywood Reporter. "There has been a democratization of information. But what they still crave, and what I crave as a TV viewer, is a guide on how people can have agency in the story. And this show is all about empowering people to do that. People want a return to real democracy. They want to respond to these events [in Washington] that there is so much frustration about."
And he's also writing a book -- not a celebrity memoir, but a book about international affairs. “Pandora’s Box: How American Military Aid Creates America’s Enemies” will be published in 2015 by Penguin.
Ronan, who has won a number of accolades for his international activism, calls the hubbub about his parentage "a distraction." But if it helps put him on television screens, it's a benefit to us all. He might help rescue that endangered species, the American public intellectual, from extinction.
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