Everyone is political in Washington D.C. If you attend a D.C. university, you automatically get engrossed in a world of governmental machinations and political activism. This is probably why celebrities are inclined to visit D.C. schools and discuss their agendas concerning hot-button issues. Usually, I consider celebrities plugging their many charities to be noble endeavors with a tendency to come off as a bit heavy-handed.
There are always exceptions to every rule however, and this one came in the form of nine-time Grammy winner John Legend. I was fortunate enough to hear him speak live at American University last Saturday, and I can assure you that Legend was well spoken, thoughtful, and clearly passionate about his cause. His speech about the lack of quality educational opportunities in the United States seemed to strike a chord with everyone in the packed Bender Arena.
Legend threw out some statistics about the college prospects of kids growing up in D.C.: “West of the Potomac River, virtually all students will go to college. East of the Anacostia River, only 1-in-20 will make it to higher education and 3-in-20 will end up in prison.” He made sure to add that though sobering, these numbers were meant, “to motivate you to make a difference.”
Legend is an outspoken proponent for improving the quality and access to American education. He founded the Show Me Campaign, which advocates for reform in the United States school system, and is a board member of Teach For America, a program that involves finding jobs for quality young teachers at troubled schools.
“A good education in the United States of America remains a gift for some when it should be a right for all,” Legend said, reiterating the words of former President Lyndon B. Johnson.
He made a plea to all of the “fortunate recipients in a nation where quality education is not a given” to use their passions to make a difference. As college students, we are always being encouraged to exert our influence on those with the ability to make decisions. Legend’s passion is education, but yours might be something else entirely. Follow his advice and become a champion for a problem that you feel needs a solution now.
In addition to lecturing, Legend also reminded the audience that he is a master piano player and crooner. Check out his cover of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep":