2021 Keynote Speaker

The Values Day Planning Committee is excited to announce that Isabel Wilkerson will be the Keynote Speaker for Values Day on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. virtually.

Participants can access her address utilizing the following virtual link.

Cultural Credit will be available. Submit questions you would like to ask Isabel Wilkerson to [email protected] by Friday, October 15, at noon to be included in the question and answer portion of the event.

Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, is the author of the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns, and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. 

“Wilkerson's work,” in the words of The American Prospect magazine, “is the missing puzzle piece of our country's history.”

The Warmth of Other Suns won the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors, and was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker and The Washington Post.  TIME Magazine named it one of the “10 Best Non-Fiction Books” of the decade. The New York Times Magazine named Warmth to its list of the best nonfiction books of all time.     

Her new book, Caste: The Origins of our Discontents, was published in August 2020 to critical acclaim and became a Number 1 New York Times bestseller.  Dwight Garner of The New York Times called it, “An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.” Oprah Winfrey chose it as her 2020 Summer/Fall book club selection, declaring it “the most important book” she had ever selected.     

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her deeply humane narrative writing while serving as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Wilkerson the National Humanities Medal for "championing the stories of an unsung history.

As the historian Jill Lepore observed in The New Yorker: “What Wilkerson urges, isn’t argument at all; it’s compassion. Hush, and listen.”   

Common Read: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Common Read: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Poetically written and brilliantly researched, Caste invites us to discover the inner workings of an American hierarchy that goes far beyond the confines of race, class, or gender.

A book steeped in empathy and insight, Caste explores, through layered analysis and stories of real people, the structure of an unspoken system of human ranking and reveals how our lives are still restricted by what divided us centuries ago.

“Modern-day caste protocols,” Wilkerson writes, “are often less about overt attacks or conscious hostility. They are like the wind, powerful enough to knock you down but invisible as they go about their work.” Wilkerson rigorously defines eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, heredity, and dehumanization. She documents the parallels with two other hierarchies in history, those of India and of Nazi Germany, and no reader will be left without a greater understanding of the price we all pay in a society torn by artificial divisions.

“The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality,” Wilkerson writes. “It is about power — which groups have it and which do not.” Before its release, the Chicago Tribune declared that Caste “should be at the top of every American’s reading list." Dwight Garner, the chief critic of The New York Times, called Caste “an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.” Upon publication, Oprah Winfrey announced that Caste was her Summer 2020 pick for Oprah’s Book Club and proclaimed it “the most essential...the most necessary-for-all-humanity book that I have chosen.”

We have purchased 270 copies of Caste that will be available in the DuPont Ball Library starting on Monday, September 20th, first come first serve.