Author, comedian and ‘The Daily Show’ host Trevor Noah selected as Princeton’s 2021 Class Day speaker

The Class of 2021 has announced that internationally acclaimed comedian and author Trevor Noah will give remarks at the virtual Class Day ceremony on Saturday, May 15, and will be inducted as an honorary member of the class.

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah

Class Day, which takes place the day before Princeton’s Commencement, is organized by members of the senior class. The ceremony also includes speeches by graduating seniors, the recognition of class members for their contributions and the induction of honorary class members.

This year’s ceremony will be held virtually at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15. A recording will be available for wider viewing.

Trevor Noah is the host of the Emmy Award-winning “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. In 2020, “The Daily Show” received six Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Variety Talk Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. Noah received the 2021 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Host in a Talk or News/Information (Series or Special) and Outstanding Short Form Series – Reality/Nonfiction; in previous years, he also has received nominations including Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. He most recently served as the host of the 2021 GRAMMY Awards in March.

In September 2019, Microsoft President Brad Smith, a University trustee and 1981 Princeton graduate, and Noah interviewed one another and answered audience questions in a broad discussion of technology and its role in society before a capacity crowd in Richardson Auditorium.

In 2018, Noah launched The Trevor Noah Foundation, a youth development initiative that empowers youth with the foundation for a better life: access to high-quality education.

In their announcement to seniors, Class Day co-chairs noted Noah’s incisive social commentary, fierce commitment to social justice, and his focus on access to education as a way to make our society stronger and more equitable.

Class Day co-chair Michael Wang said: “When we began the selection process, our class was spread all across the world and very uncertain of what our senior year would hold. We looked for a speaker that could not only speak to a wide array of student experiences but be a beacon of hope for our class. Noah’s comedy is a powerful tool for both bringing joy to many and addressing the pressing issues of today.”

Co-chair Morgan Smith said: “Noah is more than impressive for just his humor and wit: he’s gone beyond his calling in service to his community. The work of the Trevor Noah Foundation in increasing accessibility to quality education clearly embodies our values as Princetonians."

Noah has written, produced and starred in 11 comedy specials, including his most recent, “Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia,” which launched in November 2018 on Netflix. He was the subject of David Paul Meyer's award-winning documentary film “You Laugh But It's True,” which tells the story of Noah’s remarkable career in post-apartheid South Africa.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” and its young readers adaptation.

Class Day co-chair Kamya Yadav, of New Delhi, India, said: “As an international student, it is rare to see faces who also come from international backgrounds be successful in unconventional career paths. Watching Noah make an impact not just in the world of comedy globally but also in the field of education in South Africa fills me with hope that many of us will go on to make a difference in the multiple places we call home.”

Senior class president Emma Parish said that she was “amazed by the way Noah talks about difficult topics with grace and urges us to challenge our own preconceived notions.” She noted that during the pandemic, his foundation raised $500,000 for charities like City Harvest, No Kid Hungry, Feeding America, Save The Children and the New York City Mayor’s Fund for First Responders.

Parish continued: “Like all of us, Noah had to adapt to the realities of the pandemic, and the dedication and innovation he demonstrated to create ‘The Daily Social Distancing Show’ inspires us to think about how we can persevere during the difficulties of the past year. As we studied from home locations and onscreen for the first time, it was so important to see public figures like Trevor Noah navigate the national and global challenges of the past year and use his platform to raise critically important issues. It is truly an honor to induct him as an honorary member of the Great Class of 2021!”