Message to Graduates – and to Life Long Learners

For the past two years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of being asked to give the keynote address at the SF Achievers Awards recognition ceremony. Dr. Henry Safrit – the program’s founder, Jefferson Award winner, humanitarian, and fellow North Carolinian – has hounded me to share this speech since he heard it a year ago. And for those who know Henry, he’s persistent if nothing else! So after a wonderful event this past Wednesday at the African & African American Art & Cultural Complex, where SF Achievers celebrated 13 scholars, I’m happy to finally comply with Henry’s wishes. lol

FIVE CHARGES FOR BROTHER GRADUATES

READ.
Read the newspaper. Read a book or a blog. Read on the Kindle. Read on the bus or the train. Read aloud, to yourself or someone else. After a movie, read the reviews. Before the test, read the textbook. Read something on the bestseller list and read something that somebody down the street wrote. Read to learn both new information AND new words. Read for as long as you can see, and after that, learn to read in braille.

THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT.
Did it grow naturally? Is it something your great-grandmother would recognize? Can you pronounce all the ingredients? What kind of effect does it have on your body? Black men have among the highest rates of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure in the nation. Some of this is due to a combination of stress and lack of nutrition. So now, while you’re young and can eat pretty much anything, start thinking about the impact that food has on you now and will have in the future.

LEARN ABOUT THE LIFE OF SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T LOOK LIKE YOU.
One of the best things about living in the Bay Area is the many different kinds of people from different parts of the country and globe. Maybe you had it tough, but many have had it tougher. Sometimes they’ll share a story that will inspire you to do better for yourself. Sometimes you’ll be inspired to do better than they did. At the very least, you’ll know that there are some experiences that all people share, regardless of what they look like. And you should learn about others and share what it’s like being you.

HELP SOMEONE WHO DOES LOOK LIKE YOU.
Be proud of being part of a population and family of people who were often brought to the U.S. in chains and still survived. Whose dreams were cut off because of the color their skin, but they still survived. This is proof that people who often had nothing still managed to give something. Reach out and help someone else, even if you think you only have a little to help with. Someone else needs your time, talent, or treasure.

BEING A MAN MEANS BEING AN ADULT.
Being a man is not about ego. Not about bank accounts. Not about athletic skill. Not about sexual conquests. Not about make, model and rims. Not about bench presses and squats. Being a man IS about responsibility, a work ethic,  working harder and smarter, and being deserving of someone’s love. If ego gets in the way, step aside. Acting like a man is just acting. Act like an adult and you’ll be one.

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