From his celebrated conversations with world figures to his work to inspire the next generation of leaders; as a broadcaster, author, publisher, advocate, and philanthropist, Tavis Smiley continues to be an outstanding voice for change. Smiley is currently the host of the late-night television talk show Tavis Smileyon PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show from Public Radio International (PRI). Alongside his abiding friend, Dr. Cornel West, Smiley is also co-host of the intellectually energetic radio program Smiley and West, also from PRI.
In 2010, Smiley left his studio chair in Los Angeles to go on the road with his TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS primetime specials on PBS, which examined some of the country’s most defining moments. The reports included: going behind the scenes with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; examining one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s greatest speeches, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”; traveling to the streets of New Orleans to mark Hurricane Katrina’s fifth anniversary; and a profile of renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
In 2007, Smiley made television history as the moderator and executive producer of the All-American Presidential Forums on PBS, the first primetime television Democratic and Republican presidential debates with panels exclusively comprised of journalists of color.
In addition to his radio and television work, Smiley has authored 14 books. His memoir, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, became a New York Times bestseller, and the book he edited, Covenant with Black America, became the first nonfiction book by a Black-owned publisher to reach #1 on The New York Times’ best-sellers list.
His best-selling text, Accountable: Making America as Good as Its Promise, examines hard-hitting truths about the issues our country faces and addresses how our political leaders, corporations, and, finally, American citizens themselves can enforce accountability and effect change.
His forthcoming book, FAIL UP: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure, will be released May 1, 2011. In FAIL UP, Smiley steps from behind the curtain of success to recount 20 instances of perceived “failures” that were, in fact, “lessons” that shaped the principles and practices he employs today. Readers will find a kinship in Smiley’s humanness that inspires, informs, and reminds us of our inherent ability to achieve and grow in spite of life’s inevitable setbacks.
An avid reader and committed to presenting America with stories from many different voices, he founded SmileyBooks as a co-publishing venture with Hay House, Inc. From established New York Times best-selling authors to exciting new voices, SmileyBooks covers topics that appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. SmileyBooks titles are published in hardcover, trade paperback, and digital media, offering the widest possible readership and exposure.
TIME magazine honored Smiley in 2009 as one of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People.” The annual list profiles men and women whose power, talent, or moral example has made a significant difference in the world.
In 2009, Smiley released STAND, his first documentary film, which he directed, wrote, and produced. STAND shares the experiences of Smiley and ten Black male friends during a special road trip through Memphis and Nashville. The friends explore the impact of the civil rights movement and the role and relationships of Black men in America against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential race and the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
Smiley is the presenter and creative force behind America I AM: The African American Imprint. This unprecedented four-year national traveling museum exhibition, which debuted in January 2009, celebrates the extraordinary impact of African American contributions to our nation and the world, as told through rare artifacts, memorabilia, and multimedia.
Smiley’s most gratifying accomplishments are rooted in his passion to inspire the next generation of leaders. The nonprofit Tavis Smiley Foundation was established to provide leadership training and development for youth. Since its inception, more than 6,000 young people have participated in the foundation’s Youth to Leaders training workshops and conferences.
His communications company, The Smiley Group, Inc., is dedicated to supporting human rights and related empowerment issues and serves as the holding company for various enterprises encompassing broadcast and print media, lectures, symposia, and the Internet.
Smiley’s achievements have earned him numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees, including one from his alma mater, Indiana University. In 2009, the university also named the atrium of its School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) building “The Tavis Smiley Atrium.” In addition, he is the recipient of the prestigious Du Bois Medal from Harvard University and the 2009 Interdependence Day Prize from Demos in Istanbul, Turkey.
In 2011, Smiley celebrates his 20th year in broadcasting and continues to inspire, educate, and inform, in love and service.