Alex Posner, 23


“In certain circumstances, magic not only amazes and amuses, but inspires hope that the impossible is possible,” Harry Houdini once famously said. Following suit, Alex Posner has used his magic to encourage healing around the world. “Magic evokes a childlike sense of wonder and amazement” that has the ability to aid recovery, he said. “It’s filled with these metaphors of hope. It’s a fundamentally optimistic art form.”

A lifelong practitioner and teacher of magic, Posner picked up the trade in fifth grade, and soon joined the Society of Young Magicians — a branch of the Society of American Magicians, the oldest fraternal magic organization in the world. Founded by Harry Houdini in 1902, the group’s purpose is “to advance, elevate, and preserve magic as a performing art.” Hogwarts, if you will.

In 2012, he joined Magicians Without Borders, a group that teaches magic to underprivileged groups in the U.S. and around the world. After performing in veteran hospitals in New York, Posner traveled with the group to India, where he taught magic to the children of prostitutes, themselves forced into the trade as children. “Magic is a phenomenal educational tool: It teaches self-confidence, stage presence, discipline,” he said. The months-long program culminated with the children putting on their own show. “Having a real audience eat from the palm of their hand, they now have such a sense of self-worth, they would not turn to the sex trade,” Posner said, recounting the hopeful words of a social worker in the audience.

Posner is currently a senior at Yale University, where he is studying U.S. history. He’s also a member and the president emeritus of Yale’s most secretive coven, the Yale Magic Society. Through this role, he helped pioneer the Wizards of PRCH program. This initiative brings together New Haven adults recovering from drug abuse and mental illness to study the art of magic and perform throughout the community; as with Doctors Without Borders, it aims to help participants develop self-confidence and public speaking skills and promote creativity and self-discipline, inspiring hope that the seemingly impossible is possible.

Carbon footprint: Posner is the president of Students for Carbon Dividends, a campus movement aiming to curtail climate change by garnering bipartisan support for a carbon tax. Obviously, he really does believe the seemingly impossible is possible.

Meet the rest of this year’s 36 Under 36 here.