Ibram Kendi – Grow Your Intellect

Are you an intellectual? Ibram Kendi breaks down what it really means to be the smartest person in the room. His message will make you reconsider everything you knew about intelligence and productivity.


I want to talk to you about what is next for your mind. The point of my address is to ask you a very simple question. Are you an intellectual? I’m asking this question because you need to know that having a doctorate does not make you an intellectual. Becoming a professor does not make you an intellectual. Working in a research lab does not make you an intellectual just like there are MDs who are not healers, just like there are reverends who are not about God. Do not become that person.

No doctorate degree is required to join the intellectual academy. This is an inclusive academy with all types of people coming from all types of backgrounds. There are people with only a GED. There are incarcerated people. There are homeless people in this intellectual academy. There are poor people in this intellectual academy. So when I say “intellectual,” I’m not referring to someone who knows a wealth of information. All of you I’m sure know a lot. I do not measure a person’s intellect based on how much a person knows. How much you know has no bearing on how much you are an intellectual. I define and many others define an intellectual as someone with a tremendous desire to know. Intellectuals have a tremendous capacity to change their minds on matters, to self-reflect, to self-critique. Intellectuals are only governed by one special interest and that special interest is rarely self-serving and that special interest is finding and revealing the truth.

How many of you have a tremendous desire to know? How many of your minds are wide open to new ideas? How many of you are searching for ideas that challenge how you see the world? How many of you are willing to look differently at the world with the blink of new evidence? How many are you critiquing your own ideas as intensely as you critique the ideas of others?

Intellectuals are a nomadic people, constantly changing their conceptual location, constantly in search of a better conceptual space. We have workout warriors of the body, those who pump iron to break down old muscles to allow newer and bigger and better muscles to grow in their place. Well, intellectuals are workout warriors of the mind regularly breaking down old ideas to allow new ideas and bigger ideas and better ideas to grow in their place. Are you an intellectual?