Wes Moore, founder and CEO of BridgeEdu, urged students attending the Clemson University Men of Color National Summit on Friday to define success not by what they achieve but by how they help others develop a “sense of belonging and hope and accomplishment.”
“If you truly care about your future, make sure that other people care about theirs as well,” said the producer, social entrepreneur and youth/veterans advocate whose New York Times bestseller is being made into a movie produced by Oprah Winfrey.
The summit, attended by a capacity crowd of 2,000 high school and college students, academics, mentors and community leaders, is focused on closing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic men and other demographics.
Based in Baltimore, BridgeEdu uses coaching and technology to help first-generation college students through the critical first and second years.
Moore’s keynote opened the second and final day of this year’s summit held at the TD Center in Greenville. During it, he told the story of growing up in Baltimore and how his mother moved him and his two sisters to the Bronx to be closer to their grandparents following the death of his father.
He described attending a military academy in Pennsylvania and the realization that “the only way I was going to make it was if my friends were there to push me to do better and make it,” he said. “Success is not only only meaningful it’s only possible if you’re doing it together.”
He said that he came to learn that he had a place in the world, but not by moving around and changing his geography. “The people in my life helped me to understand what it means to be free,” he said, describing a string of role models starting with his parents and grandparents and eventually including teachers, ministers, guidance counselors and even parents of friends.
“People who helped me understand the world was bigger than just what was directly in front of me,” he said. “People who helped me understand there was never going to be any accident of my birth – not being black, not being poor, not being from Baltimore, not being from the Bronx – that was ever going to define me or ever going to limit me or anything I should ever be ashamed of.”
Moore told the youth it was important to understand history and all that had come before them. “No one needs to explain to me about my place. All you need to do is know your history to know your place. No one has to explain to me what greatness looks like, it runs through me,” he said.
“The fact that our destinies have already been fought for and that your destinies have already been paid for, and that the crown is sitting at Will Call. Your job now is to go and claim it,” he said.
Moore said that success is not measured by a degree, job title or salary. “Your success will never be defined by a Wikipedia page or a statue. Your success will be defined by your ability to do that for somebody else,” he said.
“In this, I ask that you stand for something. In this, I ask that you make your definition of success mean more than simply what you’re able to get and accomplish. And in this, in the words of Mr. (Harry) Belafonte, I ask that you all go out and live really interesting lives.”
This marks the second year of the summit, a part of Clemson’s long-term commitment as a land-grant institution to prepare a diverse mix of South Carolina students for cradle-to-career success. Clemson Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill said planning for the 2019 summit is already underway.
This year’s summit is presented by the City of Greenville and Greenville County, and sponsored by BB&T, among others.
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