By now you have no doubt heard about Fareed Zakaria returning the ADL's Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Award. But earlier this year he was honored as one of the recipients of the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest recognition awarded to civilians by the Indian government.
Earlier this month, a small reception was held to honor Zakaria for receiving the award. Indian Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar made the journey up from D.C and explained to the crowd what the award means. (Her full remarks can be found here as a PDF)
I had the chance to speak with Zakaria recently on what this recognition means to him, his move to Time and more.
First of all, congratulations on receiving the Padma Bhushan.
You’ve been called a lot of things in the press. An academic, journalist, foreign affairs analyst, a future candidate for Secretary of State and so forth. The night you were honored for receiving the award you joked, quoting Churchill, that from now on, “Your Excellency will do.” But you seemed genuinely humbled, if not embarrassed, at the attention bestowed upon you that evening. What does this award mean to you?
Fareed Zakaria: Well for me it’s sort of humbling because my father was a politician in India, so I grew up quite aware of this award. Quite aware of the enormous debates that used to take place about who should get it. Whether or not it was appropriate for somebody to get it. And I always assumed my father would get it, and in one of the strange ironies of life was that he ended up, for the last ten years of his life, being on the panel that determines who gets these awards.
So he was automatically ruled out because of the conflict of interest. I think that I have sort of mixed feelings about it. Honestly there’s a part of me that feels like that Grouch Marx line, “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.” And so I feel like it can’t be that important of an award if they give it to me.