Photo of Heather McGee

Case Western Reserve University’s 2021 MLK Convocation to be headlined by public policy expert, writer and advocate Heather McGhee

McGhee will deliver virtual lecture and discuss her new book, The Sum of Us, on Feb. 5

In her moving TED Talk, “Racism has a cost for everyone,” Heather McGhee recounts what happened during a live television appearance when a caller asked her for advice on overcoming racial prejudice. 

Her response? She helped.

Not long after McGhee’s TV interview went viral, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz asked her to advise the company as it designed an anti-bias training for 175,000 employees in the wake of the unjust arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia store.

McGhee’s further examination of that question, and the resulting analysis of how racism fuels bad policymaking—not just for people of color, but for everyone—kickstarted a movement toward putting systemic repair into action.

Photo of Heather McGee
Heather McGee

On Friday, Feb. 5, the Case Western Reserve University community will have the opportunity to hear from McGhee during a virtual visit. Headlining the university’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy, McGhee will deliver her online lecture at 12:45 p.m.

“We are thrilled to have Heather McGee as our MLK Convocation speaker this year,” said Robert Solomon, the university’s vice president for the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity. “Our nation is in desperate need of healing, understanding and racial reconciliation. An important first step toward long-term sustained progress is the recognition that racism hurts everyone. Racism is detrimental to all of America and our democracy. Heather McGee’s insightful voice on the cost of racism is a message we all need to hear and heed.”

The 2021 celebration theme for the university’s MLK observations is “Closing the Divide: Building Communities of Support, Belonging and Togetherness.” The event is free and available to all. The virtual lecture will be presented on the university’s livestream platform. Register here to receive the streaming link.

Each year, Case Western Reserve honors King’s commitment to social justice and global peace with a range of activities, including workshops, films, panel discussions and acclaimed speakers.

About the speaker

A Distinguished Senior Fellow at the inequality-focused think tank Demos, McGhee holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Yale University and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Civic Participation and serves on multiple boards of trustees, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Indivisible.

Photo of book cover, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together

As the former president of Demos, she drafted legislation, testified before Congress and became a regular contributor on shows like Meet the Press and Real Time with Bill Maher.

In her forthcoming book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, McGhee explores the true cost of racism as the common denominator of our most troubling public problems, and offers a crucial look at what we can do to create a more prosperous nation for all. The Sum of Us is scheduled for release in mid-February.