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NYU law, philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah named 2023 Baccalaureate speaker

Kwame Anthony Appiah at Fronteiras do Pensamento Porto Alegre 2013
Fronteiras do Pensamento / CC BY-SA 2.0

Kwame Anthony Appiah will serve as the 2023 Baccalaureate speaker, according to an announcement from the University on Monday. Appiah is a professor of philosophy and law at NYU and the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values, Emeritus.

Appiah's work focuses on “African and African-American intellectual history and literary studies, ethics, the connections between moral philosophy and psychology, and political philosophy and the philosophy of the social sciences” and African traditional religion, according to his website.


“The Class of 2023 is honored to have Professor Appiah as our Baccalaureate Speaker and to welcome him back to campus,” Class of 2023 President Taryn Sebba said in the University statement.

“During our time at Princeton, our class members have grappled with deep ethical quandaries and have unified in support of policies to make our community, and world, a more just place,” Sebba added. “Professor Appiah represents the best of Princeton — the ability to mobilize abstract concepts into pragmatic advice given with compassion — and undoubtedly will impart guiding words to us.”

His 1992 book, “In My Father’s House,” won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1993. In 2013, his book “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen,” was the first Princeton pre-read. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Appiah the National Humanities Medal for his books and essays, which “shed moral and intellectual light on the individual in an era of globalization and evolving group identities.”

Appiah was born in London and raised in Ghana before attending Cambridge University. He now lives in New York City and New Jersey with his husband, according to his website. He serves on the boards of the New York Public Library, New York’s Public Theatre, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

He is president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and writes The Ethicist column for the New York Times. 

Baccalaureate is an end-of-year interfaith service, marking one part of commencement ceremonies for the graduating Class of 2023. Recent speakers have included Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp ’89 and President of Prairie View A&M University Ruth Simmons.


Appiah did not immediately respond to a request for comment at the time of publication. 

Laura Robertson is a staff News writer for the Prince.

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