As part of the Shapiro Lecture Series, world-renowned actress and singer Audra McDonald spoke at the
University of Toledo Doermann Theater Nov. 5.
“This was Edward Shapiro’s gift to the university, to celebrate intellectual engagement,” said Charlene Gilbert, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “He also wanted it to be an event that was publicly engaging as well.”
Gilbert said Shapiro established this lecture series to allow the Toledo community to interact with University of Toledo students. He also had three criterium the board must follow when picking a keynote speaker.
The person has to be of public note, they have to be someone who is well-known, and Shapiro also wanted it to be someone with intellectual gravitas.
This year’s speaker starred in the medical drama “Private Practice” and the 2017 film “Beauty and the Beast.” McDonald was also awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2015 by President Barack Obama.
She discussed the importance how of arts have played such a key role in her life during the lecture.
“Art exists because of us, because we are human,” McDonald said. “The arts are powerful because they remind us that we are fractured, that we are all very connected.”
She also referred to herself as a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community and the empowerment of the homeless youth. McDonald said she uses her voice to speak about issues she is passionate about.
“I can’t help but exercise that power; I am a citizen of the human race,” McDonald said.
Those who attended the lecture were invited to ask questions at its close, many of whom were students. Third-year paralegal major Xavier Johnson said that his upbringing exposed him to McDonald’s talent.
“Growing up with my mom and my grandmother, we watched a lot of Broadway productions, ‘Annie,’ ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ and having grown up watching those, it was amazing to witness and listen to someone
of her stature,” Johnson said.
Johnson added he believes in student attendance at events like the Shapiro Lecture Series.
“I believe it’s beneficial for students to come to things like this, especially if you’re an arts major, or even if you’re not but you’re thinking of doing something in the arts,” Johnson said. “You’re getting the opinion
and influence from someone who has done it.”
Though the audience was an even mix of students and community members, McDonald gave one piece of advice to the younger crowd.
“You’re young, make mistakes,” McDonald said.
She talked about her troubles and triumphs growing up. She also reminded the crowd that even though times may seem dark, there is always a light.
Gilbert encourages all students and community members to attend future Shapiro Lecture series, as they are a wonderful opportunity, bringing the community together through education.