Clemson University President Jim Clements opened the two-day Men of Color Summit Thursday morning, welcoming 1,600 participants to the inaugural event designed to close the education gap with minority students.
“We have some amazing speakers and presenters lined up, and I’m excited about what they have to share with us today and tomorrow,” he said. “These are outstanding students from across the state who will have the opportunity to engage with those who will help to mentor these young men and give them the tools they need to be successful for life and college.”
Clements noted that all of them might not end up attending Clemson. “That’s OK. We just want to give them a chance to succeed no matter what path they choose,” he said.
He described the key to a better life for individuals and society is education. “If we can help eliminate the achievement gap, then everyone benefits,” he said.
Taking the stage after Clements as the summit’s opening keynote speaker, Marc Morial said, “This is a college president with soul and swagger. He’s got it all.”
Morial, the president and CEO of the National Urban League, congratulated Clements for Clemson’s “success on the football field, and in the classrooms and the labs and the core buildings and the Statehouse.”
Success is not just about athletics, Morial said. “It is paramount that it is academic.”
Morial singled out Clemson’s Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill as “the architect of this summit,” and he praised Clement’s appointment of Gill and his “forethought to create this initiative to change the face of Clemson.”
"Are we individually and collectively worthy of our children?" Johns asked. "Will we do what's required of us?"
"Despite all the progress we've made in this country – and we've made a lot of progress – there's still a lot of work to be done," Quiñones said, describing how time and time again he has been judged by the color of his skin and the accent of his voice.
"You are the main actor in your featured film. You are the author to your autobiography," Howard tells youth. "Don't let someone make you play a supporting cast role."