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Donovan Livingston

Educator, poet, and author of Lift Off

Donovan Livingston’s Harvard Graduate School of Education Convocation Address
  • About Donovan Livingston

    Donovan Livingston is an award-winning educator, spoken word poet, and public 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.

    A believer in the enormous opportunities that education provides, 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. In addition, Livingston’s areas of expertise include educational leadership, anti-racist pedagogy, and qualitative research methodologies. An impassioned and dynamic speaker, he incorporates creative elements into his lectures such as spoken word poetry and audience collaboration.

    Livingston has earned master’s degrees from Columbia University and Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Educational Leadership & Cultural Foundations. Currently, Livingston serves as the Assistant Dean of the Office of University Collaborations and Lecturer in the Department of Education at Wake Forest University. He lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife Lauren, daughter Joy, and two beagles, Phife and Left-Eye.

  • Speaking Topics

    Lift Off

    In this student-focused talk, Livingston helps young people of all ages to recognize their potential as agents of change and to realize the power of their own voices in achieving their dreams.

    Inspiring Galaxies of Greatness

    In this stirring lecture, Livingston confronts the issues facing America’s education system today and motivates educators and communities to instigate change. Citing both personal anecdotes and pedagogical research, he encourages audiences to focus on creativity and innovation in the classroom rather than systemic markers of success. Livingston touches on subjects such as the Common Core, standardized testing, and school tracking, while also looking at the repercussions of policies such as the No Child Left Behind act and the DREAM act.

    Equal Opportunities in American Schools

    Addressing important topics like college access, district zoning, and diversity and inclusion pedagogy, Livingston challenges protocols and practices that have sustained systemic inequality. In this candid lecture, Livingston discusses the lasting impact of past segregation on America's schools from both a personal and scholarly perspective, and offers his insights on how we can overcome this legacy.

  • Video

  • Praise for Donovan Livingston


    [Donovan} touched each and every person he interacted with positivity, light, and love.  Having them here exceeded my expectations in every way possible.  Not only is he an absolutely killer speaker, but he is fun to be around, too.

    Hillsboro Public Library

    Donovan Livingston was incredibly engaging and relatable to the students. Beyond being a talented poet he is a kind and giving educator who took his time to speak individually with every student who attended our event. He is passionate about education and connecting to youth in meaningful and relevant ways.


    Donovan was AMAZING!  We all fell in love with him and his work – such a generous and kind soul and his remarks were inspiring and challenging (in a very good way).  I have received nothing but enthusiastic feedback.  Please convey to Donovan that we are forever grateful and look forward to watching the rise of his star.

    Western Carolina University

    Praise for Lift Off

    Donovan Livingston’s Lift Off is our youth’s gift to us. In this joyous young man’s voice is the promise of tomorrow.

    James McBride

    Donovan Livingston gave a powerful speech at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s convocation. In a spoken-word poem, he shared his struggles in life and urged his fellow graduates to fight inequality and inspire students. . . . [Donovan is] part of a rising generation that’s . . . standing up to some of the biggest challenges in the world today.

    Hillary Clinton
  • Books by Donovan Livingston

  • Media About Donovan Livingston

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and Availability

  • 212 572-2013
  • Donovan Livingston travels from Winston-Salem, NC

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