Trevor Noah talks education, diversity, comedy at campus lecture


Trevor Noah shot a selfie with some students outside the Singletary Center for the Arts after his presentation on campus on Friday August 30, 2019. Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

Jade Grisham

Last Friday, the UK Office for Institutional Diversity and the Student Activities Board hosted a sold-out event at Memorial Coliseum to commemorate 70 years of integration at the University of Kentucky, with guest speaker author, comedian and Comedy Central host of “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah.

The event kicked off a series of programs that will be occurring all year long in celebration of the 70-year anniversary of integration at UK, honoring the legacy of the first African American student, Lyman T. Johnson.

“His perseverance and dedication is the very reason we can stand here in front of you today,” said Vice President of the Office for Institutional Diversity, Sonja Feist-Price of Johnson.

Friday’s conversation was moderated by the new Dean of the UK College of Education, Julian Vasquez Heilig, and he was joined by Trevor Noah.

The pair shared insights on all sorts of topics ranging from sense of belonging, community, importance of educational opportunity, politics and the significance of comedy.

“You cannot engage in comedy or politics without offending people…[However] Moments of laughter give us catharsis,” said Noah.

He discussed how even in some of the most awful times throughout history and present day, if you could bring light to a negative situation by laughter then it could be seen as a success.

“Through it all, they laughed,” said Noah.

Noah also discussed and the necessity of equal opportunity in education and his own experiences with education growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“For 8-9 hours a day, we were equal,” said Noah. “Access to education can truly define your generation and generations to come; [and that comes with having] the same level of opportunity.”

UK students who were among the hundreds who packed into Memorial Coliseum to hear Noah’s lecture said the event was a success.

“My favorite part of the talk was when Trevor talked about President Obama and how he taught him to be kind regardless. I try to live my life by constantly meeting new people and knowing two people I admire also try to change people by tapping into our inner humanity was just a super cool moment for me,” said UK junior Olivia Antigua. “It made me feel like I was doing something right.”

To wrap up his talk, Noah spoke about his own motivations for wanting to attend college, and the importance of taking advantage of higher education.

“You meet diverse humans that you wouldn’t have been able to be meet or be friends with otherwise,” Noah said.

Keeping with a campus commitment to continuously foster diversity and inclusion, President Eli Capilouto said that the 70 years since UK’s integration is “70 years of a journey that is still unfolding.”