Speaking to a packed Founders Auditorium, PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley spoke of the gap between what he termed, “America’s promise and its actual potential.” He began his career by broadcasting a one-minute daily radio segment at a Los Angeles urban radio station titled “The Smiley Report.” He now hosts the most viewed show on C-SPAN for nine years in a row, “The State of the Black Union,” which will be broadcast Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. Smiley was this year’s Fasnacht lecturer.
Tavis Smiley, best-selling author and popular talk show host, told students and faculty who filled Founders Auditorium on Tuesday that we must be willing to step outside our comfort zones.
Even with Barack Obama in the White House, there are still people who prejudge others on the basis of race, he said.
Smiley, this year’s Fasnacht lecturer, emphasized the importance of love and working for the greater good.
“My sense is that we all want as Americans the same thing and that is to live in a nation that is as good as it’s promise,” Smiley said. “We cannot simply stop at the symbolism, when what we need is substance,” Smiley said.
The evening started off with a performance by the University’s West African Drum Ensemble and a prayer led by Professor of Religion and Philosophy Richard Rose.
Smiley’s talk emphasized the need for everyone to do his or her part to make America better by taking leadership roles and acting out of love.
“This is my definition of love, it is that everybody is worthy just because,” Smiley said.
When Smiley was asked what advice he would give to the students at La Verne he said: “Do not leave here misunderstanding or not accepting the challenge that you must step into the world and lead.”
Students were excited to be able to attend the event; seats were completely filled by those who signed up in advance.
“We all decided to go, it was great, and it was very eye-opening,” freshman Michael Philips said. “It was a real honor to have him speak to us.”
Philips worked as an usher for the event along with many of the students from the Brothers’ Forum, a campus group of African American men who help members better themselves during college.
“He really spoke the truth because many of us are stuck on the symbolism of Barack Obama being president and what we really need to do is grasp the substance and the opportunity that this can bring to people,” freshman Chalena Robertson said.
Robertson, a member of African American Student Alliance, attended the event with many others, including members of the Black Alumni Association.
Smiley is currently the host of the PBS talk show “The Tavis Smiley Show.”
He is also a frequent commentator on TV and radio talk shows.
Smiley hosts an annual show on C-SPAN every year after the President gives his State of the Union Address, called “The State of the Black Union.”
This year’s edition will be broadcast from the Los Angeles Convention Center, at
8 a.m, Saturday on C-SPAN.
Esmeralda M. Cardenas can be reached at