This year is the 10th anniversary of Princeton’s Pre-read tradition, which introduces incoming first-year students to Princeton’s intellectual life through the experience of reading and discussing a book together. The Class of 2027’s book is How to Stand Up to a Dictator by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa ’86. Here’s an excerpt from my foreword to the Pre-read edition, which the incoming class will receive this summer. I encourage all alumni to read along with us!
Dear Members of the GREAT Class of 2027, Warm greetings from Princeton! My colleagues and I look forward to welcoming you to campus later this year. Your talents, interests, and perspectives will add tremendously to this community, and I am confident that you in turn will develop and grow through the experiences, interactions, challenges, and opportunities that await you here.
You will find Princeton a place of innovation, activity, and evolving traditions, including some that are very old and some that are quite new. This book represents one of our younger traditions.
During each year of my presidency, I have chosen a “Princeton Pre-read.” My goal when selecting the Pre-read is to find a book that introduces entering students to the University’s academic life and provokes them to examine ethical issues that will be important during their time on campus and after graduation.
The Pre-read will be the subject of an assembly during Orientation week and discussions that I lead in the residential colleges during the fall semester. I like to think of the Pre- read as an academic counterpart to the Pre-rade, a joyous ceremony in which you and your classmates march together to celebrate your arrival at Princeton.
The author of this year’s book is special. She is Maria Ressa ’86, who in 2021 received the Nobel Peace Prize.
I have met many impressive Princeton alumni, but none whom I admire more than Maria Ressa. Her courage is awesome, her values are inspiring, and her energy is boundless. She is also an almost unbelievably generous person who radiates compassion and good humor despite having faced extraordinary threats and hardships.
Maria’s book, How to Stand Up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future, includes a chapter about her experiences at Princeton. One of many reasons that I chose the book as this year’s Pre-read is that it describes how Maria’s education prepared her, sometimes in surprising ways, for unexpected challenges over the course of her career.
Another thing that I like about How to Stand Up to a Dictator is that it encompasses at least four different narratives, each of them compelling in its own right. One narrative is the story of a young woman’s search for her identity and her calling at Princeton and beyond.
Another is a first-person account from the front lines of pivotal events that reshaped journalism, the Philippines, and the world.
Yet another is a set of recommendations that are embodied in her chapter subtitles and culled from the experiences of a lifetime.
And a fourth is an urgent invitation to join what Maria calls “the fight for our future”: the quest to protect truth, democracy, and humane understanding from the corrosive effects of online media platforms and the algorithms that drive them.
Though Maria continues to fight the legal battles that she describes in this book, she currently plans to join us to discuss her book during Orientation week.
I hope that you enjoy How to Stand Up to a Dictator, and I hope, too, that you have a wonderful and refreshing summer.