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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, TED Speaker, CNN Contributor

Contact Wajahat For Booking
Wajahat Ali | New York Times Contributing Op-Ed Writer, TED Speaker, CNN Contributor
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Wajahat Ali—a New York Times contributing op-ed writer, TED speaker, CNN commentator and playwright—is a new kind of public intellectual: young, exuberant, and optimistic. He speaks on the multifaceted American experience, covering our growing need for cultural unity, racial diversity, and inclusion to fight forces of hate and division. In hilarious, politically up-to-the-minute talks, Ali shows how to learn from, and join what he calls “the multicultural coalition of the willing”—the emergent generation poised for social change. 

“Wajahat Ali is one of the more exciting writers I know.”

— Dave Eggers

Wajahat Ali is a New York Times Contributing op-ed writer, a CNN commentator, a TED speaker, an award-winning playwright, a recovering attorney, and a former consultant for the US State Department. Ali has given keynote speeches around the world from TED to The Aspen Ideas Festival to Google to the United Nations to the New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The Guardian. He helped launch the Al Jazeera America network as co-host of The Stream, a daily news show that extended the conversation to social media and beyond. He was also a National Correspondent, Political Reporter, and Social Media Expert for Al Jazeera America. There, he focused on stories of communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media. As a playwright, Ali is the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans post-9/11—which was published by McSweeney’s and performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center. He is a Peabody-nominated producer of the series The Secret Life of Muslims, a series of short-form, first-person documentary films featuring a diverse set of American Muslims. Ali was also the lead author and researcher of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the seminal report from the Center for American Progress. 


Previously, as Creative Director of Affinis Labs, Ali worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives that have a positive impact for marginalized communities, and to empower social entrepreneurs, young leaders, creatives, and communities to come up with innovative solutions to tackle world problems. Recently, Affinis Labs launched a global startup incubator network, aimed at identifying and fostering “emerging entrepreneurial talent from around the world that understands what makes the global Islamic economy special.” 


Ali worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. He initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. He was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council.


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

Legal Aid at Work

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

Legal Aid at Work

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

Legal Aid at Work

Speech Topics

Social Justice
A Caravan of Unity in the Age of Hate Building a Multicultural Coalition of the Willing
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.
From $20 bucks to Talk Show Host How To Use Adversity/Failure/Hardship 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
How Do We Create a Diverse and Inclusive Culture … (That Isn’t a BS, Politically Correct Talking Point?)
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.