Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist, Emmy-nominated Filmmaker, and Founder of Define American
Note: Vargas was unable to participate in the panel due to sickness.
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and a leading voice for the human rights of immigrants. He is the founder of Define American, the nation’s leading non-profit media and culture organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through the power of storytelling. His memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in fall 2018.
In 2011, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant. A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine worldwide with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of a follow-up cover story he wrote. He then produced and directed Documented, a documentary feature film on his undocumented experience. It aired on CNN, streamed on Netflix, and received a 2015 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary. Also in 2015, MTV aired White People, an Emmy-nominated television special he produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically-changing America.
Among accolades he has received are: The Salem Award from the Salem Award Foundation, which draws upon the lessons of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692; the Freedom to Write Award from PEN Center USA; and honorary degrees from Colby College and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Passionate about the role of arts in society and promoting equity in education, he serves on the advisory board of TheDream.US, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students.
A product of the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a proud graduate of San Francisco State University (’04), where he was named Alumnus of the Year in 2012, and Mountain View High School (’00). An elementary school named after Vargas will open in his hometown of Mountain View, California in 2019.