Emmy Award-winning writer, television producer, actor, and comedian Larry Wilmore has been selected by the Harvard College Class of 2023 to address graduating seniors as part of the annual Class Day celebration on May 24, the day before Harvard’s 372nd Commencement.
“We are so excited to welcome Mr. Larry Wilmore as our Class Day speaker,” said Athena Ye ’23, first marshal and co-chair of the speaker selection committee. “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.”
“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.”
For more than 25 years, Wilmore has been a force both in front of and behind the camera. He gained recognition as the “senior Black correspondent” on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” before landing Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore,” which premiered in 2015 and ran for two seasons. Slate praised the show for its “complex, destabilizing commentary on racial issues that was otherwise lacking in late night.”
Previously, Wilmore hosted the Showtime town hall-style comedy special “Larry Wilmore’s Race, Religion and Sex.” In 2020, he hosted and executive produced the series “Wilmore” on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, focusing on the 2020 presidential election and other issues of the day.
In addition to his on-camera work, Wilmore has established himself as a powerhouse behind the scenes. He served as the creator, writer, and executive producer of “The Bernie Mac Show,” for which he received a Peabody Award in 2001 and an Emmy in 2002. He was co-creator and consulting producer for HBO’s “Insecure,” helped launch ABC’s “Black-ish” as executive producer, and is a co-creator of “Grown-ish.” Wilmore has also written for popular shows such as “In Living Color,” “The PJs” (which he co-created), “The Office,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Recently, Wilmore ventured into the documentary realm, executive producing and making appearances in Netflix’s “Amend: The Fight for America,” which premiered in 2021 and explores the ongoing struggle for equal rights in America.
Wilmore’s talents go beyond television, as demonstrated when he hosted the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in 2016. His wit shines through in his podcast, “Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air,” on The Ringer Podcast Network, where he offers his take on the week’s issues and interviews guests from the worlds of politics, entertainment, culture, sports, and more. He’s also the author of “I’d Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts.”
Throughout his career, Wilmore has elevated Black voices and remained dedicated to supporting Black creatives, uplifting them as he has advanced in the entertainment industry.
“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,” said Chibuike “Chibby” Uwakwe ’23, second marshal and co-chair of the speaker selection committee. “We all need a little bit of humor in our lives, and Mr. Wilmore has shown just how powerful it can be.”
The Class Committee of the Harvard College senior class has invited a guest speaker for Class Day since 1968. The first invited guest was Martin Luther King Jr., who accepted the invitation shortly before his assassination. His widow, Coretta Scott King, delivered the speech in his absence, becoming the first woman to give a Class Day address at Harvard. Recent addresses have been delivered by athlete and activist Jeremy Lin ’10 and history-making Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07, J.D. ’12.
In addition to Wilmore’s address, Class Day includes award presentations and student orations. The event will begin at 2 p.m. on May 24 in Tercentenary Theatre and will be livestreamed.