Author, journalist David Finkel to present Patten Lectures at IU Bloomington

Jan. 21, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Finkel will present two Patten Lectures next month at Indiana University Bloomington. The lectures will draw upon Finkel's reporting about U.S. soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and struggled to re-adjust to life at home.

Finkel, national enterprise editor of The Washington Post and senior writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security, has championed an immersion-based, long-form reporting method that is rare in contemporary journalism. His Patten Lectures, both free and open to the public, will be:

  • "The Good Soldiers," 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, Alumni Hall, Indiana Memorial Union
  • "Thank You for Your Service," 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, Alumni Hall, Indiana Memorial Union

Finkel will also speak to students in the IU School of Journalism's "Behind the Prize" class, in which Pulitzer Prize winners share their storytelling techniques. The class is taught by professor of practice Tom French, himself a Pulitzer winner. Finkel's talk, at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, is open to the public; registration is required at

In his Patten Lecture "The Good Soldiers," Finkel will tell the story of the U.S. Army's 2-16 infantry battalion, which was at the center of the 2007 "surge" in the Iraq War. By the end of a 15-month deployment, 14 members of the 2-16 were dead and another 75 would receive the Purple Heart. They were young, optimistic and invincible when they headed into the war, Finkel says, and when they returned home they were forever changed.

"Thank You for Your Service" will introduce the audience to some of the 500,000 Americans who returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them psychologically wounded, experiencing the loneliness of the after-war and trying to understand what happened and to heal. While the phrase "thank you for your service" has become ubiquitous after 12 years of war, Finkel asks if we truly know who we are thanking and what we are thanking them for.

The Patten Lectures reflect Finkel's two widely acclaimed nonfiction books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their effects on U.S. soldiers. "The Good Soldiers" was published in 2009 and "Thank You for Your Service" in 2013, both by Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Finkel’s work extends far beyond his reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, however. For the past three decades, he has reported around the world, from the refugee camps of Kosovo to the death row cells of Florida. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 in recognition of his series on U.S.-funded attempts to export democracy to Yemen. He also received a Missouri Lifestyle award for a piece on racial and class conflict in Washington, D.C., and the Robert F. Kennedy award for a series on worldwide patterns of illegal migration.

More recently, he was awarded a 2012 "genius grant" by the MacArthur Foundation, which noted that his “finely honed methods of immersion reporting and empathy for often-overlooked lives yield stories that transform readers’ understanding of the difficult subjects he depicts.” He was earlier a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The William T. Patten Foundation

The William T. Patten Foundation, endowed by a student of the IU Class of 1893, provides funds to bring people of extraordinary national and international distinction in the sciences, the humanities and the arts to the Bloomington campus for a week. For more information, including more about Finkel and his lectures, contact or visit the Patten Foundation website.