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Wajahat Ali

In order to fight hate, let’s build a multicultural coalition of the willing.

New York Times Contributing Op-Ed Writer | Political Commentator | TED Speaker

Contact Wajahat For Booking
Wajahat Ali | New York Times Contributing Op-Ed Writer | Political Commentator | TED Speaker
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Wajahat Ali is a new kind of public intellectual: young, exuberant, optimistic, and funny. And though today’s doomsday headlines report growing division and racial strife, Ali hasn’t given up on his vision of a truly multicultural America—free of hate, fear, and bigotry. With refreshing honesty and humour, the New York Times writer and popular political commentator shows us how we can come together as a “multicultural coalition of the willing” and drive lasting social change.

“Wajahat Ali is writing about contemporary and essential matters, a source not only of laughter but, more importantly, of understanding.”

— Yann Martel

As a New York Times contributing op-ed writer, highly sought-after political commentator, TED speaker, and award-winning playwright, Wajahat Ali is undoubtedly a jack-of-all-trades. But across his many roles, one thing remains constant: Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. His upcoming memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American (Fall 2021) will share stories, both hilarious and poignant, of Ali’s experience growing up a Muslim Pakistani-American in an effort to inspire a new vision of America’s multicultural identity.

 

When his two-year old daughter’s battle with liver cancer took him on an unexpected and devastating journey through the U.S. medical system, Ali wrote about it with his signature candor and openness for the New York Times: “A crisis like cancer helps us answer the question: What truly matters when we are stripped overnight of our comfort, wealth, and plans?” As the coronavirus pandemic and recession poses a similar question to millions of people across the country, Ali offers his experience as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of an impossible situation. Above all else, Ali is living proof that we can use our authentic stories—whatever they may be—to build the America we wish to live in.

 

Ali is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans post-9/11— as well as the Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America. There, Ali told stories of communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

 

Previously, as Creative Director of Affinis Labs, Ali worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Ali initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Ali has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The Guardian.

 

Testimonials

“Wahajat Ali was superb—he made the evening.”

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Testimonials

“What made Wajahat so perfect was that he had both a deep sense of social justice and a great sense of humor.”

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Testimonials

“Wajahat was an outstanding speaker—one of the most engaging we have had in recent years”

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Speech Topics

Social Justice
Building a “Multicultural Coalition of the Willing” A Path for a New America
Hate. Fear. Anger. Racism. Political polarization. Fake news. These are modern trends rooted in age-old anxiety—the fear of the “unknowable other.” America today is divided and confused, full of tremendous uncertainty. However, Wajahat Ali argues this is also a tired remake. From the rise of white nationalism to anti-immigrant conspiracy theories, America can often feel like an intolerant space, where diverse communities are the frequent targets of bigotry and far-right ideology. But Ali imagines an America remade: united over our shared values, not torn apart by racism or hate. Our country can achieve its pluralistic potential, he says. But first, we’ll need to emerge from our partisan cocoons, reach across the aisle, and build lasting partnerships. We need to see religious and cultural difference as the ideas that can bring us together, not rip us apart. And we have to create what he calls a “Multicultural Coalition of the Willing”: a sort of Justice League of diverse Americans who can unite over commonalities. We can resist the forces of bigotry, Ali insists; and in this keynote, he imagines a way to achieve the American Dream for everyone.
 
Motivational
Go Back to Where You Came From Using Your Adversity and Hardships to Fuel Success
Wajahat Ali was a shy, overweight, perpetually sick, left-handed only-child of Pakistani immigrants. He was born in America, but only learned to speak English at the age of five. At the age of 21, he left university to help his family. At one point, he lost his family home and was reduced to a $20 bill and 3 cents in his bank account. How did this dorky, privileged kid, who lost everything in his 20s, end up pursuing and fulfilling his goals of becoming an attorney, an award-winning playwright, and the co-host of a popular daily talk show? In this talk geared for college students and young professionals, Ali charts how he used failure, awkwardness, economic hardship and the last recession to fuel his unexpected growth from the awkward fifth-grader who almost got kicked out of school to becoming a talk show host and writer for The New York Times. This eventful journey is a funny, heartfelt and practical story of how to use your passion to help overcome hardships and still achieve your goals. 
 
Diversity & Inclusion
Steps for Creating a Truly Diverse and Inclusive Culture Why “Woke-Washing” Isn’t Enough
In this deliberate, hilarious, and blunt keynote speech, Wajahat Ali gives practical advice and measures on how an organization, a business, or a community can create a diverse and inclusive culture that isn’t just a bumper sticker ideology or a brochure cover with token people of color. Ali shows how a truly diverse and inclusive environment should be about intentional representation and equality. He argues forcefully and convincingly that true diversity is not just toleration and acceptance, but rather it’s a constant disruption, rewarding journey, and necessary challenge that will create economic, social and creative benefit in the long run for all communities.