After the speaker called his name, Kwame Anthony Appiah stepped on stage, extended his arm, and shook hands with President Barack Obama.

Appiah received the 2011 National Humanities Medal “for his contributions to philosophy and the pursuit of truth in the contemporary world,” according to the White House.

An ethicist and philosopher, Appiah will deliver the keynote address for the first-ever Virginia Tech Humanities Week on Feb. 10. The address is set for 7 to 8 p.m. in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre of the Moss Arts Center. A virtual option will also be available.

“Dr. Appiah is an internationally recognized scholar whose work transcends disciplines and reaches a wide variety of audiences,” said Matthew Gabriele, chair of both the Department of Religion and Culture and the Humanities Week Steering Committee. “We’re thrilled to welcome him to Blacksburg as we celebrate 150 years of the humanities at Virginia Tech.”

Held Feb. 7 to 11, Virginia Tech Humanities Week will feature an array of programs showcasing the vigor and variety of the humanities across the university.

Humanities Week is part of Virginia Tech’s Sesquicentennial Celebration and hosted by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Appiah, who serves as a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, will deliver “Living Well: The Humanities as a Preparation for Life” as his keynote address.

“The liberal in ‘liberal education’ means ‘befitting a free person,’ and free people are in charge of their own lives,” said Appiah. “The humanities, I’ll argue, provide important tools for managing the one great ethical task, which is making a successful human life. Some of those tools come from the sciences, too, of course; and we are enriched by engagement with both of them. The humanities and the sciences, alongside the arts, enrich our lives both at work and at leisure.”        

Appiah, who authors the New York Times column “The Ethicist,” previously taught at Princeton University, Harvard University, Yale University, Cornell University, Duke University, and the University of Ghana. His work centers on African and African American studies in addition to ethics.

His award-winning publications include “Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers,” “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen,” “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity,” “As If: Idealization and Ideals,” and “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.”

Appiah’s work, according to the National Endowment for the Humanities, “has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects.”

In announcing Appiah as recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the White House praised his literary works, noting that they “have shed moral and intellectual light on the individual in an era of globalization and evolving group identities.”

For more information about Humanities Week programming, visit the Humanities Week webpage.

Written by Andrew Adkins