Trending Topics

Most Booked University Speakers of 2021 and 2022

From a former secretary of defense and Paralympic Gold medalist, to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, these fascinating men and women were the most booked university speakers over the past two years.

Captivating an audience at a university or college is no easy task. With attendees ranging from older teen students to tenured administrators and even local community members, a speaker must be able to connect with different generations, all while staying true to their own personal style.

Whether it’s an alumni dinner, distinguished lecture series, keynote for current students, or a graduation address, WSB represents university speakers who will captivate any sized crowd. We offer a wide array of college and university speakers who can connect with any audience.

This list of speakers is not exhaustive, nor are they ranked in any order. WSB works with thousands of university and college speakers, and our agents would be happy to provide a customized proposal – simply contact us.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Presidential Historian + Pulitzer Prize-winning Author

A world-renowned presidential historian and author, Doris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for her book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. She’s the author of six other critically acclaimed best-selling books, and her career as a presidential historian was inspired by her time as a White House Fellow, one of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service.

Why Doris Kearns Goodwin Is a Popular University Speaker

Kearns Goodwin is a master at making history come alive, and her riveting talks offer context during these turbulent times. The historian shares insight on how today’s leaders can learn from the past and calls upon her deep knowledge and understanding of previous crises to illustrate how leaders motivated and inspired their teams.

What Organizations Are Saying About Doris Kearns Goodwin: “Doris is one of the most brilliant speakers we have had on our campus. Audience members shared their comments with us about what an extraordinary person and class act she is. The stories she shares about the presidents, combined with her encyclopedic knowledge of presidential history, are insightful, entertaining, and humorous.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Leadership: “Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.” – Doris Kearns Goodwin

Eugene Robinson

Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist, The Washington Post and Political Analyst, MSNBC

With more than 25 years of reporting experience with iconic news programs such MSNBC’s Hardball, The Rachel Maddow Show and NBC’s Meet the Press, Eugene Robinson has a knack for insightful political commentary. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Robinson has the uncanny ability to speak on the changing dynamics of American culture as a result of the influence from global media outlets. His book Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America (2010), describes his experiences and understanding of race relations in the United States.

Why Eugene Robinson Is a Popular University Speaker

Eugene Robinson is an undisputed giant within the political landscape, and is recognized as one of the most influential voices in American media on race and culture in the United States. Robinson has mastered the art of connecting with both older and younger generations — his passion and energy, paired with an unmatched knowledge on current and historic race relations provide a unique experience for each audience.

What Organizations Are Saying About Eugene Robinson: “More than being the affable, genial, and generally witty person that he is, he took time to engage personally nearly everyone who sought him out. To say that we had another successful event is an understatement… Eugene hit it out of the park.”

Eugene Robinson on Perseverance: “So we must be realistic but never hopeless. Much has gone wrong. But it is in our power to put things right.” – Eugene Robinson

David Gergen

Senior Political Analyst, CNN

David Gergen has been a trusted advisor to four presidents on both sides of the political aisle, offering a bipartisan analysis of recent political history. Since leaving government, the best-selling author has served as editor-at-large of U.S. News & World Report, and is also the founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Gergen’s latest book, Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made, aims to inspire younger generations to pursue service and leadership. It was released in May 2022.

Why David Gergen Is a Popular University Speaker

David Gergen is one of the most experienced, fair-minded, and wisest voices in the country and one of the most popular university speakers on our roster. Gergen’s decades of service inside the Oval Office provide him insights that few other political analysts can match. Gergen’s always-engaging talks leave audiences with reasons to be optimistic, even during the country’s most difficult days.

What Organizations Are Saying About David Gergen: “David Gergen placed the current political situation in its historical context and provided the students with specific suggestions about what they can and should focus on to become engaged citizens, improve the political process, and make the nation a better and more unified place. His emphasis on working together through a shared commitment to service with people of different backgrounds, political views, and races as a way of gaining respect and appreciation for others was timely and powerful.”

David Gergen on Teaching: “The proudest moment for [a teacher of leaders] is seeing not what students learn but what they do.” – David Gergen

Bonnie St. John

Paralympic Ski Medalist, Fortune 500 Business Consultant + Rhodes Scholar

Despite having her right leg amputated at age five, Bonnie St. John was the first African-American ever to win medals in Winter Olympic competition, taking home a silver and two bronze medals at the 1984 Winter Paralympics. A former director of the White House National Economic Council, St. John was named “one of the five most inspiring women in America” by NBC Nightly News.

Why Bonnie St. John Is a Popular University Speaker

A whirlwind of energy, passion, and grace, Bonnie St. John challenges audiences to push through their limitations, and her dynamic messages guide audiences to find their paths to higher performance, greater productivity, and overall success.

What Organizations Are Saying About Bonnie St. John: “Bonnie St. John was terrific: smart, articulate, and compassionate. It was evident that she researched the company and as a result, truly connected with us. She was a refreshing change – in both approach and style – from traditional and inspirational speakers.”

Bonnie St. John on Confidence: “You have the strength to push back against what others are making you think or do. You use that muscle of confidence. In the same way, joy is from the inside out, and not letting the things on the outside define you.” – Bonnie St. John

James Carville

Political Icon

James Carville has been at the center of some of the most dramatic political victories of the last forty years. Carville has worked on numerous political campaigns in more than 23 countries, including Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak, former Israeli prime minister. He is host of the “Politics War Room with James Carville & Al Hunt” podcast and author of numerous best-selling books.

Why James Carville Is a Popular University Speaker

Affectionately known as the “Ragin’ Cajun,” Carville is one of the most instantly recognizable faces in politics. With a quick wit and recognizable Southern drawl, Carville discusses with audiences the affects the current political division will have on both parties, and how recent and upcoming elections will continue to impact our country for decades to come. Carville’s talks are punctuated by his own unique brand of optimism and humor.

What Organizations Are Saying About James Carville: “Faculty and alumni said [James Carville] was one of the greatest speakers they’d ever had. Students were incredibly excited to have him on campus and I don’t think they thought they’d be laughing that hard that early in the morning.”

James Carville on Doing What’s Right: “Sometimes the right thing gets done for the wrong reason and sometimes, unfortunately, the wrong thing gets done for the right reason.” – James Carville

Robert Gates

Former Secretary of Defense

A former CIA director and Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates served under eight U.S. Presidents, influenced decades of U.S. intelligence and defense policies, and helped chart new paths for public and private institutions looking to adapt and transform. In 2011, Gates was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is also a three-time recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, one of the CIA’s most prestigious honors.

Why Robert Gates Is a Popular University Speaker

Named by both U.S. News & World Report and Time Magazine as “one of the country’s best, most influential leaders,” Gates shares with audiences an inspiring presentation on every organization’s need to change and how to implement those changes successfully.

What Organizations Are Saying About Robert Gates: “Everything went great with Dr. Gates. He was amazing and his talk at the University of California, Santa Barbara was timely and fascinating. A home run!”

Robert Gates on Leadership: “Core to leadership is the ability to relate to people – to empathize, understand, inspire, and motivate.” – Robert Gates

William Kristol

Founder + Director of Defending Democracy Together

William Kristol is a widely respected analyst of American political developments for the last three decades, having served in senior positions in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations. After ending his political career, Kristol founded the Weekly Standard in 1995 and edited the influential magazine for over two decades. He’s now the founding director of Defending Democracy Together, an organization dedicated to defending America’s liberal democratic norms, principles, and institutions.

Why William Kristol Is a Popular University Speaker

Kristol offers a true insider’s perspective on all the key players and current, incisive close-ups of what’s happening in American politics. Astute and perceptive, Kristol captivates audiences with his political observations and unmasks underlying trends in the daily headlines.

What Organizations Are Saying About William Kristol: “William Kristol was charming, knowledgeable, entertaining, and very informative. He provided a very intriguing analysis of the world and the dangers we face.”

William Kristol on Patriotism: “Patriotism is an indispensable weapon in the defense of civilization against barbarism.” – William Kristol

James Stavridis

16th Supreme Allied Commander, NATO

Admiral James Stavridis spent 37 years in the Navy and served as senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense. Admiral Stavridis also led Deep Blue – the Navy’s premier operational think tank for innovation- immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

Why James Stavridis Is a Popular University Speaker

Admiral Stavridis advocates a unique model of “leader as servant” and believes in the power of people. He shares specific ways to unlock their strength with audiences through positive reinforcement and innovative incentive systems.

What Organizations Are Saying About James Stavridis: “Admiral Stavridis is a phenomenal keynote and an overall wonderful speaker to work with due to his expertise, approachability, and cooperation. His message and content resonated perfectly with our audience. Our attendees couldn’t say enough good things about him. We hope to work with him again in the future.”

James Stavridis on the Future: “In the 21st century, we can’t create security by building walls.” – Admiral James Stavridis

Arthur Brooks

Social Scientist + Bestselling Author

For more than a decade, Arthur Brooks served as president of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the world’s most influential think tanks. Once named one of the “50 World’s Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine, Brooks is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Business School, where he teaches courses on leadership and happiness.

Why Arthur Brooks Is a Popular University Speaker

Brooks engages audiences with a blend of cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, philosophy, music, and art, delivering real-life strategies for lifting people and bringing them together. Brooks gives more than 150 talks and lectures each year to audiences across the country.

What Organizations Are Saying About Arthur Brooks: “Dr. Brooks is a fascinating person, from his background as a musician to being a Harvard professor, he has so much knowledge to share. His presentation on finding happiness through your work has left a lasting impact on our team.”

Arthur Brooks on Failure: “Failure is likely – so face it, learn from it, and get stronger for next time. Without failure, there is no growth.” – Arthur Brooks

Events aren’t easy, but working with WSB is. WSB works with thousands of respected influencers, thought leaders, and speakers each year and our experienced sales team is committed to the success of your event. For more university speaker ideas, please contact us.