September 16. 2022

The Closing Keynote Address is the capstone event of new student orientation experience for the Harris School.

The address brings conversations on timely policy issues and challenges through a dynamic lecture exclusively for the Harris community. The address will challenge students to contemplate their role in complex global and social issues and craft a vision for the future of policy leadership and social change. Incoming students can also expect to hear more about Harris’ commitment to providing students with the resources and experience to drive effective social change and policy leadership, how they can enact smarter policy solutions, and personal and professional examples of commitment to rigor, fearlessness, and impact.  The 2022 keynote speaker will be selected and announced in summer 2022.

2021 Keynote Speaker: Blair Imani

Blair Imani is a critically acclaimed historian, author, educator, and influencer living at the intersections of Black, bisexual, and Muslim identity. The New York Times praises Blair Imani’s unique ability to create “progressive lessons with vibrant visuals and a perky, quirky delivery.” Her viral microlearning series Smarter In Seconds, which has earned over 100 million views, demonstrates her signature style of making abstract concepts more concrete in a well researched, well presented, and concise manner.

She is the author of two historical books; Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History (2018) and Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream (2020). Blair Imani educates using a variety of social media platforms (YouTube, Instagram, TikTok) in addition to speaking at universities and organizations around the world. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Tegan and Sara Foundation, and on the Board of Trustees for Muslims for Progressive Values.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Blair Imani attended Louisiana State University where, in 2014, she founded Equality for HER, a non-profit organization that provided resources and a forum for women and nonbinary people to feel empowered. Her fearless leadership took her to the front lines of anti police violence protests and, following her arrest at the protests of Alton Sterling’s murder in Baton Rouge, Blair began building a platform and social media presence to organize and create awareness about injustices in Black, LGBTQ+, and Muslim communities.

Following her meteoric rise to prominence during the uprisings of 2020, Blair Imani was profiled by The New York Timesto discuss her daily routine as a historian, social activist, and influencer. Her viral TEDxBoulder talk, “Queer & Muslim: Nothing to Reconcile”, has sparked important discourse about the intersection of the two identities. In 2019, she was proudly featured in New York City Pride’s campaign honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. From the United States to Germany, Kenya, France, and the United Kingdom, Blair Imani has inspired audiences around the world.

As an Influencer and historian, semi-retired organizer, and public speaker, Blair Imani is dedicated to making the world a better place and amplifying the voices and work of those fighting the good fight.

Previous speakers include:

Jamira Burley

Head of Youth Engagement and Skills for the Global Business Coalition for Education (2020)

Samuel Sinyangwe

An activist and data scientist focused on ending racism and police violence in America (2019)

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi 

8th District of Illinois (2018)

Valerie Jarrett

Former Senior Advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama (2017)

David Axelrod

Harris Distinguished Senior Fellow, Director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics & Former Senior Strategist to U.S. President Barack Obama (2016)