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Coates pullquote-01
Credit: Ilana Wurman , Gillian Diebold

From award-winning writers, journalists and comedians to nationally-known activists in gender equity and LGBTQ rights, the host of notable speakers who visited Penn's campus this year was long and impressive. Below is a rundown of seven speakers who drew large crowds of students, faculty and staff when they spoke at Penn this year: 

Ta-Nehisi Coates

The award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates came to campus on Nov. 1 on his book tour for “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.” His new book, and much of the discussion during the event, revolved around the black experience in America during the Obama administration — as well as the double standards that Coates identified between Obama and Trump.

Tamika Mallory

Credit: Julio Sosa and Gillian Diebold

The national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington spoke at Rodin College House's rooftop lounge on March 24. Mallory praised the huge turnout for the protest but expressed concern that some who attended the march did not show concern for other civil rights causes, particularly those affecting people of color. 

Kenan Thompson

Credit: Sam Holland and Gillian Diebold

“Saturday Night Live” cast member and television star Kenan Thompson spoke to hundreds of students in Irvine Auditorium on Mar. 28. The actor, who has also appeared in movies such as “Snakes on Plane,” discussed his humble upbringings and noted that the current political climate energized comedy writing at SNL. 

Steve Forbes

Credit: Idil Demirdag and Gillian Diebold

Invited by College Republicans to speak about the economy, American publishing executive Steve Forbes addressed audiences at Penn on April 18.  The editor-in-chief of Forbes criticized proposals for a border adjustment tax and talked about his favored plan, the simple flat tax.

Trevor Noah

Credit: Yosef Robele and Gillian Diebold

The South African comedian Trevor Noah was invited to campus by two student groups in November. He spoke to Penn political science professor Mark Pollack about his autobiography “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,” which The New York Times has described as a “raw account of life under apartheid.”

David Fahrenthold

Credit: Julio Sosa and Gillian Diebold

David Fahrenthold, the reporter who first broke the story of President Donald Trump bragging about groping women without their consent, came to Penn in November. Fahrenthold won a Pulitzer Prize this April for his series of stories that "created a model for transparent journalism in political campaign coverage."

At the event, the Washington Post reporter detailed his experiences covering Trump whom he said has called him a "nasty guy."

Chelsea Manning

Credit: Gillian Diebold

Photo from Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Chelsea Manning, a controversial LGBTQ rights activist and former United States Army soldier who was sent to prison after releasing sensitive military documents to WikiLeaks, spoke to hundreds of Penn students and faculty members on Nov. 29. She discussed her decision to leak information and stressed the need for government transparency. In advance of her visit, some students criticized Manning's role as an icon of the movement for transgender rights. 

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