Edelman to students: reach out, be brave in combating hate, antisemitism
Thayer Academy once again welcomed New England Patriots legend Julian Edelman to campus as the former professional athlete, businessman, and activist discussed his efforts fighting forms of hate and, in particular, antisemitism.
Tuesday’s event, part of the Thayer Global Speaker Series, was entitled “Brave Talk: A Conversation with Julian Edelman.” Edelman, who is Jewish, began the day by visiting with a dozen or so members of Thayer’s Jewish Affinity Group in Koskores Gallery. After that, Edelman joined Head of School Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28 for discussions of Edelman’s personal and public commitment to combating antisemitism. The first conversation was held in the CFA’s Hale Theater for Upper School students while the second was held for a Middle School audience in the school’s Forum.
“When you’re green, you grow, and when you’re ripe, you rot,” said Edelman to both groups, echoing advice given to him by his father, Frank. He then explained that, for him, the key to growing as a person is always to be curious about someone else’s beliefs, background, or culture.
“I’m always curious about what makes a person tick,” he told Middle School students. “I always like learning someone’s story.”
For Edelman, engaging in civil discourse involves connecting with another person, and that takes courage. When offended, he said, it’s easy to be defensive — “to put a fist up,” is how he phrased it — but he urged his audience to go further. “Extend a hand and have a conversation,” he said. “Find out who they are and why they think that way.”
Much of the discussion centered on Edelman’s attempts to “call in” rather than call out fellow professional athletes when they’ve said something hurtful. Edelman focuses on dialogue with such athletes, believing the conversation leads to mutual growth.
“You have to be comfortable having an uncomfortable conversation,” Edelman told Upper School students. “That’s life.”
A California native who played quarterback during his college days at Kent State, Edelman played all 12 seasons of his NFL career with the New England Patriots before retiring in 2020 as one of the most trusted receivers in team history. Known for his dedication and work ethic, he earned three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots and was named MVP of Super Bowl LIII. Edelman retired as second all-time in postseason receiving yards and postseason receptions, behind only Jerry Rice.
The charismatic and energetic Edelman actually visited Thayer last December as part of another Thayer Global Speaker Series event, “Leading On & Off The Field,” which featured Edelman, fellow Patriot great James White, and Bob Socci, play-by-play voice of the Patriots, who served as that night’s moderator.
The Thayer Global Speaker Series brings thought leaders, innovators, and difference-makers to the Thayer campus to engage the community in issues that matter to the world.