When tragedy strikes, even the small gesture of a hug can go a long way and make a difference even when coming from a stranger. The University Lecture Series (ULS) is bringing Ken Nwadike Jr., a peace activist and inspirational speaker known for the Free Hugs campaign.
Nwadike, 36, is originally from San Diego. He began his Free Hugs campaign in 2014 when he attended the Boston Marathon. He decided to attend after the Boston bombing as an effort to spread positivity.
Nwadike originally had the idea of being an actual participant in the race, but failed to qualify. This race was where he got his name as “the free hugs guy.” He gave runners free hugs as they passed him.
Nwadike is the current president and CEO of Superhero Events, LLC that hosts the Hollywood Half Marathon where he is the race director in Hollywood, California. The race is held to raise funds for homeless teens. With his experience he decided to make an appearance in Boston as a positive influence on runners as they made the halfway mark.
“After last year’s tragedy, I figured I’ve got to come out here and actually do something about it,” Nwadike said in a New York Times interview in 2014.
Nwadike stood outside during the marathon with a shirt and sign labeled “FREE HUGS” providing support to participants.
“I’ve seen people cry and get really emotional when they get a hug. I think sometimes people just need to be held, especially at the half point of a race,” Nwadike said in the same interview.
His actions led him to be featured all over national news outlets such as The New York Times, CNN and NBC. From then on, he worked to be a positive influence amid negativity that erupted nationally.
In 2016, the “Free Hugs” campaign gained more exposure when Nwadike took his positivity to the political environment. He has made appearances at political marches as a form of peaceful protest.
In the trying times of the 2016 presidential election, Nwadike released a video showcasing his “Free Hugs” campaign dealing with now President Donald Trump vs. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D). This video produced the #MakeAmericaLoveAgain.
Nwadike is known to cover the topics of homelessness and involvement in the school setting, relevant political topics such as race and inclusivity as a whole.
The lecture will take place Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Oval Theater. Check in begins at 5:30 p.m. and the doors open at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public with no pre-registration needed.