First Lecture - University of Houston
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First Lecture is UH College of Education Dean Bob McPherson’s signature event, designed to give students, faculty, staff and guests a memorable and motivational first lecture to start the academic year.

First Lecture 2021

Join the UH College of Education for an inspiring back-to-school kickoff event featuring writer, comedian and commentator Baratunde Thurston. The Emmy-nominated host and New York Times-bestselling author of “How to Be Black” merges wit and wisdom in his discussions of race, culture and being a good citizen. This year marks the event’s 10-year anniversary.

Date: Friday, Aug. 20, 2021
Time: 11 a.m. You may join the live stream at 10:45 a.m.

Baratunde Thurston

Keynote Speaker

Baratunde Thurston, the Emmy-nominated host and New York Times-bestselling author of “How to Be Black,” merges wit and wisdom in his discussions of race, culture and being a good citizen. Thurston has worked for The Onion, produced for “The Daily Show” and currently serves as executive producer and host of “How To Citizen with Baratunde,” named one of Apple’s favorite podcasts of 2020. In 2019, he delivered what MSNBC’s Brian Williams called “one of the greatest TED talks of all time.” Thurston, who has a degree in philosophy from Harvard University, was raised in Washington, D.C., by his mother, a computer programmer, after his father was shot to death during a drug deal gone bad.

“I am here because I was loved and invested in and protected and lucky because I went to the right schools. I'm semifamous, mostly happy, meditate twice a day, and yet I walk around in fear because I know that someone seeing me as a threat can become a threat to my life. And I am tired,” Thurston said in his TED Talk. “I am tired of carrying this invisible burden of other people’s fears. And many of us are. And we shouldn’t have to because we can change this because we can change the action, which changes the story, which changes the system. Systems are just collective stories we all buy into. When we change them, we write a better reality for us all to be a part of. I am asking us to use our power to choose. I am asking us to level up.”

John Hunter

Special Guest

In honor of the 10th anniversary of First Lecture, award-winning teacher John Hunter will return to the virtual stage to inspire attendees once again. Hunter spoke at the inaugural event in August 2011. With a background in music and filmmaking, Hunter developed an interactive educational experience to build students’ problem-solving and collaborative skills in an increasingly complex world. As Hunter explains, “The World Peace Game is about learning to live and work comfortably in the unknown.”

Past Speakers