Larry Wilmore Named College Class Day Speaker

Writer, television producer, comedian, and actor challenges the racial and political status quo.

The Harvard College class of 2023 has chosen Emmy Award-winner Larry Wilmore to address graduating seniors at its Class Day celebration on the afternoon of May 24, the day before University’s 372nd Commencement.

“From his early days acting to his work producing and writing some of the most popular and influential TV shows of our generation, his voice in the media has made a lasting impact by challenging traditional ideas of race and politics through his prowess in comedy,” Athena Ye ’23, first marshal and co-chair of the speaker selection committee, said in a news announcement.

Wilmore gained recognition as the “Senior Black Correspondent” on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart before beginning his most recognizable role in 2015 as the host of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. The show was praised for its “complex, destabilizing commentary on racial issues that was otherwise lacking in late-night,” by Slate, building upon themes Wilmore has explored throughout his more than 25-year television career. He has combined his comedic wit and political acumen, hosting the White House Correspondents’ Associate Dinner in 2016 and now offering his opinions on the week’s headlines with his podcast, Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air

Behind the camera, Wilmore has served as co-creator and consulting producer for HBO’s Insecure, executive producer of ABC’s Black-ish, and a co-creator for its spin-off Grown-ish. As a television writer, he’s worked on shows such as The Office and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Most recently, he made appearances in, and produced, the Netflix documentary Amend: The Fight for America, which explores the nation’s quest for equal rights. 

“Larry Wilmore’s steadfast activism has made a difference in so many people’s lives, and that’s because of the beautiful way he weaves humor and real-world problems into one. We all need a little bit of humor in our lives, and Mr. Wilmore has shown just how powerful it can be,” said Chibuike Uwakwe ’23, co-chair and second marshal of the speaker selection committee.

The Class Committee of the Harvard College senior class has invited a Class Day guest speaker since 1968, with its first invited guest was Martin Luther King Jr.; following his assassination that April, his widow, Coretta Scott King, spoke. Recent speakers include activist and athlete Jeremy Lin ’10 and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07, J.D. ’12.

“It’s an absolute honor to be invited by the Class of 2023 to speak,” Wilmore said. “This is a pivotal moment in their lives, and it’s a joy to be able to share whatever wisdom I can and hopefully generate a few laughs in the process.”

Read more articles by: Nancy Walecki

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