We have curated a list of the most captivating and inspiring speakers who are sure to leave a lasting impact on your college audience. From thought-provoking discussions on current events to motivational speeches on personal growth, these speakers will spark conversation and encourage students to think beyond the classroom. So, whether you’re looking to bring diversity to your campus, spark a change in student attitudes, or simply bring in a speaker who will leave a lasting impression, read on to discover the Top Distinguished Speakers for Colleges in 2023.
Dr. Robert Ballard: President, Ocean Exploration Trust & Deep-Sea Explorer
Making discoveries that have captured the imagination of the public, Dr. Robert Ballard is best known for his 1985 discovery of the TITANIC. He has succeeded in tracking down numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship BISMARCK, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier YORKTOWN (sunk in the World War II Battle of Midway) and John F. Kennedy’s boat, PT-109.
Michio Kaku: Renowned Physicist, Co-Founder of String Theory
Dr. Michio Kaku is an internationally recognized authority on theoretical physics and the environment and is co-founder of String Field Theory. Dr. Kaku’s engaging speaking style makes him one of the world’s foremost STEM advocates and science popularizers.
Ken Burns: Award Winning Documentary Filmmaker
Ken Burns has been making documentary films for over forty years. Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made.
Bob Woodward: Legendary Pulitzer Prize-Winning Investigative Journalist; Associate Editor, The Washington Post; and Author, 21 Bestsellers
Bob Woodward gained international attention when he and Carl Bernstein uncovered the Watergate scandal in 1973. Since then, he’s worked to shine a light on the inner-workings of secret government. Woodward’s factual, non-partisan revelations to readers and speech audiences provide a view of Washington they’ll never get elsewhere. Woodward has written about the last nine U.S. presidents and chronicled how the power of the presidency has evolved. He is author of 20 bestselling books – 14 went to #1 – more than any contemporary nonfiction writer.
Angela Davis: Legendary Human Rights Activist
Angela Davis is internationally known for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad. Her work as an educator has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender equality.
Gene Demby: Co-host/Correspondent, Code Switch
Gene Demby is a founding member of NPR’s race, ethnicity and culture team, Code Switch. He serves as the blog’s “host,” starting and moderating conversations across an array of platforms. Before NPR, he served as the managing editor for Huffington Post’s BlackVoices following its launch. He later covered politics. Prior to that role he spent six years in various positions at The New York Times. While at NYT, he started a blog about race, culture, politics and media called PostBourgie in 2007.
Shereen Meraji: Host/Correspondent, Code Switch
Shereen Marisol Meraji is an award-winning journalist and the co-host and senior producer of NPR’s Code Switch podcast about race, identity and culture. Code Switch is the only podcast about race that’s talking about all of us: our histories, how we’re represented, the ways we work together and against each other.
April Ryan: White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, Author of The Presidency in Black and White and Under Fire
White House Correspondent April Ryan has a unique vantage point as the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House – a position she has held since the Clinton era.
Michael Eric Dyson: Public Intellectual & Best-Selling Author
Named one of the 150 most powerful African Americans by Ebony magazine, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, an American Book Award recipient and two-time NAACP Image Award winner, “is reshaping what it means to be a public intellectual by becoming the most visible black academic of his time.
Charles Best: Crowdfunding & Social Impact Keynote Speaker, Founder of DonorsChoose
Charles Best is the pioneer of crowdfunding and the founder of DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization that has inspired 5 million people to give $1.3 billion to fund 2 million classroom requests created by public school teachers. Charles launched DonorsChoose in 2000 at a Bronx high school where he taught history, and while the organization was still operating out of his classroom, it got a boost from Oprah Winfrey, who declared DonorsChoose one of her “ultimate favorite things.” To date, teachers at 85% of all U.S. public schools have created classroom requests on the site, and DonorsChoose has become an increasing force for equity in American education.
Donna Brazile: Veteran Democratic Political Strategist
Always candid and insightful, Donna Brazile brings a refreshing perspective and practical sensibility to the discussion of today’s political headlines.
Maria Ressa: CEO of Rappler, Journalist, Author, Freedom Advocate & 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Maria Ressa is the co-founder, CEO, and executive editor of Rappler.com, an online news organization in the Philippines. Maria, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been honored around the world for her courageous and bold work in fighting disinformation, “fake news,” and attempts to silence the free press. Maria advises organizations and corporations on corporate governance, values, and strategy. Her experience as a journalist and an entrepreneur in the digital world makes her a sought-after keynote speaker and panelist.
Mikki Kendall: Writer, Diversity Consultant & Feminist
Mikki Kendall is a writer, diversity consultant, and occasional feminist who talks a lot about intersectionality, policing, gender, sexual assault, and other current events. She has discussed race, feminism, education, food politics, police violence, tech, and pop culture at institutions and universities across the country.