Speaker Zachary R. Wood

Zachary R. Wood

President of Uncomfortable Learning at Williams College and Crusader for Dialogue

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    New York, USA

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About Speaker Zachary R. Wood…

Although still a student, Zachary R. Wood, a senior at Williams College, is known for his dynamic perspective on free speech, race, and dissenting opinions. As president of the student group Uncomfortable Learning, Wood is committed to inviting speakers with controversial perspectives to speak freely on the college’s campus. Wood is an activist for free speech and a firm believer that civil debate is a crucial part of one’s education. He recently testified before the United States Senate on the necessity of ensuring that college campuses allow for a variety of viewpoints.

Through his work with Uncomfortable Learning, Wood found himself at the center of numerous campus controversies, many of which have turned into national news stories. When he invited former National Review columnist John Derbyshire to speak, Wood found himself accused of racism by his fellow classmates and the event was canceled by the administration. In the aftermath, there was extensive press coverage of Wood and his work with Uncomfortable Learning, including features in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time, and The Huffington Post. This brought widespread attention to the issue of campus censorship and cemented Wood’s conviction that engaging with an opposing perspective is a catalyst for truly meaningful education.

Now, Wood is taking his message beyond his college campus, and is sharing the details of his own personal story and how his own experiences have inspired him to be a crusader for open dialogue and free speech. His memoir, Uncensored, tells the story of his troubled upbringing, from a difficult early childhood filled with pain, uncertainty, and conflict to the struggles of code-switching between his home in a rough neighborhood and his elite private school. Arguing for a new way of interacting with each other in this deeply polarized society, Wood has cemented his position as a deeply necessary voice—not just at Williams College, but for his entire generation. Wood is currently a Robert L. Bentley Fellow at The Wall Street Journal, and will graduate from Williams in the spring of 2018 as a Herbert H. Lehman Scholar with a degree in political science.

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