Donovan Livingston - Eccles Visiting Scholar - From the Classroom to the Stars

Donovan Livingston

March 25, 2021
The Great Hall

Reflection | Podcast | VideoPhotos

Eccles Visiting Scholar George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation
SUU and A.P.E.X. Events is most grateful for the support from The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation which made this event possible.

In 2016, Donovan Livingston delivered a convocation speech to the Harvard Graduate School of Education that went viral and received national acclaim. His spoken word address was at once a pointed examination of the American education system and an inspirational call for reform. A passionate speaker, Livingston encourages students, educators, and communities to realize their potential to change the shape of education, and to "lift off."


On March 25, 2021, A.P.E.X. Events was happy to host Donovan Livingston on campus as this week’s speaker. In 2016, his Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation address “Lift Off” went viral, reaching over thirteen million views and prompting Hillary Clinton to praise, “It’s young graduates like [Livingston] who make it clear that America’s best days are still ahead.” Since his pivotal speech, Livingston has been featured on CNN, NPR, BBC, Good Morning America, and in news outlets across Europe, Australia, India, and South Africa. His convocation address was published as a book by Spiegel & Grau in 2017. Livingston inspires students, educators, and communities with his conviction that every child has the right to “lift off” and achieve their dreams. Drawing on personal experiences as well as scholarship, Livingston examines the role of culture, hip hop and spoken word poetry in student experiences in higher and postsecondary education. An impassioned and dynamic speaker, he incorporates creative elements into his lectures such as spoken word poetry and audience collaboration. He was introduced to the stage by SUU’s Dean of the College of Education and Human Development and Professor of Family Life and Development, Dr. Shawn Christiansen.

Livingston began his presentation with an acknowledgment of those who recently died from the recent events happening in Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado and led the audience in a brief moment of silence. Afterwards, he kicked things off with an original poem about hope, having recited it with great passion. He shared with the audience a PowerPoint presentation titled, “Inspiring Galaxies of Greatness: Rocketing toward Remixes for Higher Education” and shared with the audience the quotes and hip hop artists who inspired him. He also shared with the audience his own college transcript, and talked about his low 1.6 GPA he had gotten during his beginning years in college, but gave inspiring remarks about how he straightened up and started working hard in school.

Donovan also shared with the audience four more works of hip hop inspired poetry he’d written, called “B-Sides,” “Note to Self,” “Lux Libertas,” and “Lift Off,” respectively. He shared as well what he calls the five C’s for measuring success (CREATIVITY, CURIOSITY, CONNECTIVITY, COLLABORATION, and CONSCIOUSNESS), and his “Remixes for Higher Education: REIMAGINE ASSESSMENT TO REDEFINE SUCCESS, REFRAME THE LANGUAGE OF RECRUITMENT, REINVEST IN THE MOST VULNERABLE STUDENT POPULATIONS, and RE ENGAGE AND REINVIGORATE MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES SURROUNDING CAMPUS.

Livingston concluded his presentation in a powerful call-and-response recitation of Listervelt Middleton’s “The Origin of Things.”

By Emily Sexton


Audio Transcript