The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Suki Kim is One of The Only Writers to Ever Live Undercover in North Korea. Now’s the Time to Listen.

Suki Kim is one of the only writers to ever live undercover in North Korea. Completely immersed, intimate with people no other outsider will ever meet, her rare knowledge about the world’s most mysterious and unpredictable nuclear power is both crushing and captivating.

And with the type of headlines North Korea is currently making, it’s also crucial. Kim—whose New York Times bestseller Without You, There is No Us chronicled the time she spent teaching the sons of North Korea’s elite—is a valuable resource for the curious, the concerned, and everyone in between. Here’s a round-up of what she’s saying about North Korea right now: 


3. Kim’s story for The Moth, re-released from the vault:

“I didn’t want to wait for North Korea’s permission to tell North Korea’s story.” 


Suki Kim will also be on a panel about North Korea at this year’s New Yorker Festival. For more information about her, or other politics speakers, contact The Lavin Agency.

Repairing an Unequal Nation: Five Top Speakers on the Art of Change

Keynote speakers Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Jeff Chang, Gabby Rivera, and Reza Aslan hail from the middle east to the midwest, but they all have one thing in common: an infectious desire to make the world a more peaceful and equitable place. 

Khalil Gibran Muhammad: Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School  

Khalil Gibran Muhammad   How Numbers Lie    Radcliffe Institute


Khalil Gibran Muhammad is a professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. He is the go-to authority on the history of racial criminilization in the U.S., interviewed for the popular documentaries 13th and Slavery by Another Name, and featured in The New York Times, NPR, and The New Yorker, among others. His book, The Condemnation of Blackness is lauded by both academics and non for its vital inquiry into the nation’s most destructive and insidious racial trap.


Nikole Hannah-Jones: New York Times Magazine Staff Writer |  Winner of the National Magazine Award

Nikole Hannah-Jones: 'Apostrophes'

Award-winning New York Times Magazine journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones is well known for her acute and powerful observations on modern day civil rights, particularly as it pertains to the education system. Her widely-read articles on segregated housing and schools, as well as her deeply personal experiences as a black woman in America expose how racial inequality is perpetuated by government policy.


Jeff Change: Social Historian | Author of We Gon’ Be Alright and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop   

Art of Change: Colorizing Us

Jeff Chang’s We Gon’ Be Alright is a snapshot of modern American life in which the evidence of re-segregation is undeniable. What does diversity mean in an era such as ours, he asks. And in talks, he responds, moving from hip-hop to civil rights, police brutality to mass incarceration, Hollywood representations of race (or lack thereof) to the current administration, always with the sweeping authority of a seasoned social historian. 


Gabby Rivera: Author of Marvel’s America and YA novel Juliet Takes a Breath  

Interview: Marvel's America Chavez Writer Gabby Rivera | SYFY WIRE

An outspoken creative force, Gabby Rivera is invested in inspiring radical creativity in others, especially young people from diverse backgrounds, and those in vulnerable communities. Her YA novel Juliet Takes a Breath helped open new dialogues with and about LGBTQ teens, and currently she’s taken the lead on the new Marvel comics series America—featuring the first queer, Latinx, teen-girl superhero ever—that’s catching headlines from the likes of The New York Times, CNN, and Vogue.


Reza Aslan: #1 New York Times Bestselling Author | Consulting Producer on The Leftovers 

TEDxConejo - Reza Aslan - Unity in Diversity

With natural charisma and a near instinctive understanding of people and their traditions, Reza Aslan is dismantling Islamophobia’s foothold in America. He’s a religious scholar as well as a #1 New York Times bestselling author, who, after his two interviews on Fox News and CNN went viral, became a voice for Muslims and a wake-up call for all Americans to challenge hatred and discrimination. His brand-new, must-read book is God: A Human History.


To book speakers Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Jeff Chang, Gabby Rivera, Reza Aslan, or other college speakers, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive speakers’ bureau.  

First a Memoir, Soon a Film. Megan Phelps-Roper’s Story of Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church Is a Study in Empathy

Megan Phelps-Roper, once a prominent member of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its vicious hate speech and cruel protests, is now one of its rare defectors. Her highly anticipated memoir, titled This Above All is coming soon to the big screen. 

Produced by Reese Witherspoon, and set to be scripted by heavyweight screenwriter and author Nick Hornby (About a Boy, High Fidelity), This Above All is a moving account of Phelps-Roper’s upbringing, indoctrination, and eventual rejection of the only world she’d ever known. She’s a symbol of empathy overcoming hate, of reason conquering fear. “We must extend empathy and compassion to the people who show us hostility and contempt,” she says in her TED talk, viewed over four million times. And if she can do it, anyone can. 


To learn more about Megan Phelps-Roper contact The Lavin Agency today.  

Kwame Anthony Appiah: “Sometimes in Thinking About the World, the Truth Isn’t What You Need”

In his newly released book, As If: Idealization and Ideals, Kwame Anthony Appiah makes a compelling argument for the importance of “useful fictions” when it comes to understanding nature, society, and ourselves.  

These useful fictions are not to be confused with “alternative facts,” says Appiah, currently a professor of philosophy and law at NYU, though his former credits include teaching positions at Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Duke. A “useful fiction” is a known and strategic untruth—a way of expanding the limits of reality to encourage progress across all fields of inquiry. It is not a deception.


When explained in the eloquent and stirring manner he’s known for, it’s easy to see what seems like it can’t be true: a historical precedent for augmented reality, one of our most cutting-edge technologies. And this is the hallmark of fine philosophy: a creative dissection of our past in order to extract answers for our future.


Here’s the book’s full description from Harvard University Press:


Idealization is a fundamental feature of human thought. We build simplified models in our scientific research and utopias in our political imaginations. Concepts like belief, desire, reason, and justice are bound up with idealizations and ideals. Life is a constant adjustment between the models we make and the realities we encounter. In idealizing, we proceed “as if” our representations were true, while knowing they are not. This is not a dangerous or distracting occupation, Kwame Anthony Appiah shows. Our best chance of understanding nature, society, and ourselves is to open our minds to a plurality of imperfect depictions that together allow us to manage and interpret our world.


The philosopher Hans Vaihinger first delineated the “as if” impulse at the turn of the twentieth century, drawing on Kant, who argued that rational agency required us to act as if we were free. Appiah extends this strategy to examples across philosophy and the human and natural sciences. In a broad range of activities, we have some notion of the truth yet continue with theories that we recognize are, strictly speaking, false. From this vantage point, Appiah demonstrates that a picture one knows to be unreal can be a vehicle for accessing reality.


As If explores how strategic untruth plays a critical role in far-flung areas of inquiry: decision theory, psychology, natural science, and political philosophy. A polymath who writes with mainstream clarity, Appiah defends the centrality of the imagination not just in the arts but in science, morality, and everyday life.


To book Kwame Anthony Appiah, or similar academic speakers such as Angela Davis, contact The Lavin Agency today.

Every College Needs A Before I Die Wall: Candy Chang Profiled In HuffPo

“Every single college campus across the world can benefit from a 'Before I Die' wall.” Candy Chang, the public space artist, college speaker, and TED Fellow, recently received a rave review for her community art project in a new blog entry at The Huffington Post. Since Chang first started the project, the walls have now popped up in over 30 countries in more than 10 different languages. The idea behind the initiative was to provide members of the community with a forum to remember their dreams—and to share them with others. Something that Stephanie Beach of The Huffington Post says is especially important for college students.

“College students spend so much time being college students that sometimes it seems as though that is the sole factor that defines you,” Beach writes. “In the blur of finding the time to finish your 10-page psychology paper, prepare for your politics midterm, and complete your organic chemistry lab, it is easy to forget about what you want most out of life.” She says that the walls bring students together to revel in their dreams and those of others around them—reinforcing a sense of community and showcasing how similar we all are.

Improving public spaces is a driving force behind much of Chang's work. “With more ways to share our hopes, fears, and stories in public space,” she says in the article, “the people around us can not only help us make better places, they can help us lead better lives.” When she presents her projects and ideas for designing public spaces on stage, she speaks with passion and optimism about how simple objects can transform our communities. Whether its in a keynote, her Before I Die initiative, or her newest endeavor, Neighborland.com, Chang helps us rediscover what we want out of life—and how our collective wisdom can help us achieve it.

Human Rights Speaker Angela Davis: Incarceration Perpetuates Violence

This month, human rights speaker Angela Davis shared the stage with renowned linguist Noam Chomsky to discuss the abolition of the prison industrial complex. A gifted public speaker, Davis has dedicated much of her career to the discussion of alternate methods of dealing with violence. At the event (Radical Futures And Prospects For Freedom) Davis explains that, as a society, we have shifted our attention away from the eradication of violence and toward retribution and revenge. Instead of examining why violent outbursts occur in the first place, and then addressing those issues, she says that the “logic of criminalization and incarceration is a logic of diversion and deflection.” We incarcerate criminals, she says, as a way to put a band-aid solution on the problem and avoid asking tough questions about why people commit crimes.

Another problem with the prison system, she explains, is that it perpetuates cyclical violence. Instead of fixing the societal, political, and economic issues that originally spurred the violence, we send our convicted to jail where violent incidents continue to occur. She also explains that there has been little evidence to suggest that increased incarcerations lead to a decrease in societal violence. We use prison, she says, as a means to solve the problems for the short-term without weighing long-term effects. We need to consider the broader picture, she argues, and construct a “radical future” that doesn't rely solely on the penal system to keep us safe.

Spending a year-and-a-half in the prison system herself, Davis has become an advocate for fighting judicial system inequalities and finding new and viable solutions. In her books, Abolition Democracy, Are Prisons Obsolete?, and her forthcoming Prisons and American History, Davis questions the effectiveness of a world where we lock citizens behind bars. In her writing and her public lectures, Davis dares to ask tough questions about our justice system in order to push for a world that is not only safe to live in, but also puts freedom at the forefront.