Tavis Smiley to Serve as MLK Speaker: Jan. 25

Broadcaster, author, advocate, and philanthropist Tavis Smiley will be the keynote speaker for the 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at The Claremont Colleges. Smiley’s address will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 25 in McKenna Auditorium.

Referencing him as one of the nation’s “captains of the airwaves,” Newsweek recently named Smiley one of the “20 people changing how Americans get their news.” Smiley hosts the late-night television talk show, Tavis Smiley, on PBS, and his radio show, The Tavis Smiley Show, is distributed by Public Radio Internationalmaking him the first American to simultaneously host signature talk shows on both public television and public radio.

At the end of his junior year at Indiana University, Smiley interned as an aide to Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, then returned to Bradley’s office for four years more after earning his bachelor’s degree in law and public policy. In 1991, an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council led Smiley to radio commentary, where he quickly developed an audience with The Smiley Report, a minute-long, daily segment on a local station. Successive work in hosting an L.A.-based talk show would soon earn him the attention of such national media outlets as Newsweek, The Washington Post, and Time.

Smiley, who has authored nine books, made publishing history when the book he edited, The Covenant with Black America (Third World Press)a collection of essays by black scholars and professionals became the first nonfiction book by a black-owned publisher to be listed as the No. 1 nonfiction paperback in America by the New York Times Best-Seller List. His latest, What I Know For Sure: My Story of Growing up in America, was released by Doubleday last October.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2006 NAACP Image Award, as well as several honorary doctorate degrees, including one from his alma mater. He is also the founder of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, a nonprofit based in Crenshaw, that serves as a leadership training and development program for African-American youth. The Foundation’s National Youth to Leaders Summit in 2003 brought more than 600 black youth to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., to learn from the nation’s most prominent African-Americansfrom Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) to Cornel West.

CMC student Natalia Bailey ’10 has worked with the Tavis Smiley Foundation for more than six years, and is now a member of Smiley’s National Youth Council, which conducts leadership conferences across the country.

The 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at The Claremont Colleges involves participation by all campuses of the Claremont University Consortium. The keynote address is funded by the 5-College Planning Committee, the CMC Office of the President, the Dean of Students office at CMC, and by the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. Smiley’s discussion is part of a week long observance on Pathways to Civic Action: The Conscience of the Nation.