Doby Photography/NPR
Tom Gjelten 2010
Doby Photography/NPR

Tom Gjelten

Correspondent, Religion and Belief, National Desk

Tom Gjelten covers issues of religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and social and cultural conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

In 1986, Gjelten became one of NPR's pioneer foreign correspondents, posted first in Latin America and then in Central Europe. In the years that followed, he covered the wars in Central America, social and political strife in South America, the first Gulf War, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the transitions to democracy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Gjelten's latest book is A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, published in 2015. His reporting from Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994 was the basis for his book Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege (HarperCollins), praised by the New York Times as "a chilling portrayal of a city's slow murder." He is also the author of Professionalism in War Reporting: A Correspondent's View (Carnegie Corporation) and a contributor to Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (W. W. Norton).

After returning from his overseas assignments, Gjelten covered U.S. diplomacy and military affairs, first from the State Department and then from the Pentagon. He was reporting live from the Pentagon at the moment it was hit on September 11, 2001, and he was NPR's lead Pentagon reporter during the early war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Gjelten has also reported extensively from Cuba in recent years. His 2008 book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Viking), is a unique history of modern Cuba, told through the life and times of the Bacardi rum family. The New York Times selected it as a "Notable Nonfiction Book," and the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and San Francisco Chronicle all listed it among their "Best Books of 2008." His new book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story (Simon & Schuster), recounts the impact on America of the 1965 Immigration Act, which officially opened the country's doors to immigrants of color.

Since joining NPR in 1982 as labor and education reporter, Gjelten has won numerous awards for his work, including two Overseas Press Club Awards, a George Polk Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a regular panelist on the PBS program "Washington Week," and a member of the editorial board at World Affairs Journal. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and freelance writer.

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Story Archive

Unitarian Universalists Denounce White Supremacy, Make Leadership Changes

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Iraqis and supporters rallied outside a Detroit courthouse Wednesday as a hearing began on a lawsuit that seeks to stop the government from deporting more than 100 Iraqi nationals who were recently rounded up. Carlos Osorio/AP hide caption

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FBI Concludes GOP Baseball Practice Shooter Had No Ties To Terrorism

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What We Know About The Virginia Shooting Suspect

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Southern Baptists Update Bible's Language On Gender

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Denise Zamora is the organizer of Saturday's "March Against Sharia" in San Bernardino, Calif., the site of a 2015 mass shooting. Michael Radcliffe/NPR hide caption

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'March Against Sharia' Planned Across The U.S.

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Authorities Brace For Conflict During Anti-Sharia Marches

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Pregnant Student Barred From Graduation At Md. Christian School

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President Trump is welcomed by the prefect of the papal household Georg Gaenswein as he arrives at the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis on Wednesday. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Trump Avoids Major Slips On International Religious Tour

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Trump Takes Religion Tour On First International Trip

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Trump Will Meet Pope Francis At Apostolic Palace During Vatican Visit

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Callista Gingrich, wife of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, waves to the crowd during the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016. She was nominated this week as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

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The sun sets over the old Saudi palace on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh. President Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, as well as Israel and the Vatican, starting Friday. Hassan Ammar/AP hide caption

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Wading Into Murky Waters, Trump Trip To Advocate Religious Unity

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Facing Global Persecution, Christian Leaders Urge U.S. For More Protection

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Trump Issues Executive Order Designed To Protect Religious Freedom

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