I’m delighted to announce that this year’s Commencement speaker will be Baratunde Thurston ’95. Humorist, author, television host and producer, podcaster, journalist, and more, Baratunde is both an insightful and witty commentator on matters of race, technology, democracy, and how we as citizens can be more engaged in building a better and more equitable future.
Baratunde was born in Washington D.C. and entered Sidwell as a 7th grader. He has described his transition from a public school as a challenging one at times, but one that also was nurtured and guided by a supportive network of administrators and teachers. After Sidwell, Baratunde attended Harvard University, where he graduated in 1999 with a BA in philosophy. He described how well his Sidwell education prepared him for Harvard in an interview that we published in the Spring 2021 issue of Sidwell Friends Magazine.
Baratunde’s incredibly wide-ranging career, which he once described as Winnie-the-Pooh-like with a “hand in many different honey pots,” is a testament to his irrepressible curiosity and ability to engage with audiences large and small through any type of media.
He is the author of four books, the best known of which, How to Be Black, was a New York Times bestseller. His podcast, How to Citizen with Baratunde, was named one of Apple’s favorite podcasts of 2020. It also received the Social Impact Award at the 2021 iHeartRadio Podcast Awards.
From 2007 to 2012, Baratunde served as Director of Digital for The Onion. In 2015 he joined the production team of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as supervising producer for digital expansion. Along the way, he also has served as an advisor to the Data & Society Research Institute and a director’s fellow at the MIT Media Lab. Baratunde currently serves on the board of the Brooklyn Public Library and of BUILD, and entrepreneurship program for underserved high school students.
As we look forward to Commencement and to Baratunde’s address, I highly recommend you take some time to watch his 2019 TED talk, which former NBC and MSNBC anchor Brian Williams called “one of the greatest TED talks of all time.”
Head of School