Ronan Farrow, the biological child of Woody Allen and the actress Mia Farrow has been awarded a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University in the UK.
According to USA Today, Farrow is something of a prodigy, whizzing through his academic studies at an early age:
Farrow, who is a special adviser to the secretary of State for global youth issues, graduated from Bard College in 2004 when he was 15. He started Yale Law School when he was 17 and graduated in 2009.
Farrow is currently serving in the Obama administration as Special Adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Global Youth Issues, a role he assumed following a two-year stint as Special Adviser for Humanitarian and NGO Affairs in the State Department’s Office representing Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Those kinds of accomplishments would cause most Jewish parents to kvell, but in this case, father and son have been estranged for years. After Allen and Mia Farrow’s bitter breakup in the 1990s, Ronan Farrow chose to disassociate from his father. He had grown up identifying Soon-Yi Previn, with whom Allen had an affair and now calls his wife, as his sister.
“He’s my father married to my sister,” Farrow reportedly told Life Magazine several years ago. “That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression. I cannot see him. I cannot have a relationship with my father and be morally consistent… I lived with all these adopted children, so they are my family. To say Soon-Yi was not my sister is an insult to all adopted children.”
Allen and Previn have now been married 15 years and share two adopted children of their own, but Ronan remains Allen’s only biological child, perhaps the saddest casualty of the romantic scandal.
Ronan Farrow’s humanitarian interests may have come from his mother, who has used her celebrity to draw attention to human rights issues. Farrow was a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and first visited Darfur in 2004. In 2006, Mia returned to the conflict with Ronan at her side, and together they visited refugee camps and met with Sudanese government officials. According to the Washington Post, they recorded their experience for inclusion in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s podcast series on genocide.
Ronan also wrote four op-eds about the crisis for the Wall Street Journal and has been a contributor to Newsday and The International Herald Tribune. A collection of his writings can be viewed on his Wikipedia page.
Farrow’s personal successes are even more astounding in light of the obstacles he faced as a child. In addition to contending with the very public humiliation of his parents’ breakup, Farrow was separated from his father when he was 5, a stage of development during which powerful attachments are most impressionable—and vulnerable. It would be completely natural if Farrow were to have proverbial “Daddy issues” of enormous size. Instead, his father’s personal and professional legacies do not appear to have hindered his drive. Far from living in his father’s shadow or visibly scarred from childhood trauma, son, is in many ways, as impressive as father; not as artist, but as activist.
Check out this fascinating virtual broadcast about the Darfur trip with Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow, photojournalist Ron Haviv and John Heffernan, from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Moderator Bill Lichtenstein introduces Farrow by saying, “At a relatively young age [he] has had a career that would make most much older political activists very jealous.” In addition to the worthwhile interviews, it’s cool to see what technology can make of phone interviews from a remote conflict region (after the intros, Mia Farrow begins speaking at 4:23 and Ronan at 9:11).