On Friday, February 28, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center hosted its annual MLK/African American History Month celebration to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event is cosponsored by the Equal Opportunity Programs Office and the African-American Advisory Committee.
This year, along with Goddard employees, two student groups were able to attend the program: Mt. Zion Prep, a postgraduate basketball program based in Baltimore, Md., whose stated goal is to enhance self-confidence, build character, develop leadership skills and other fundamental principles that will enable young men to excel both on and off the court. Suitland High School Center for the Visual and Performing Arts jazz ensemble provided the musical selections for the event.
The event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, is an American academic, journalist, author, activist and television personality. He currently serves as an associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and is also an affiliated faculty member at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. He hosts the nationally syndicated television show “Our World” with Black Enterprise Television and online at HuffPost Live. He is also a BET News correspondent and a CNN political commentator. He was named one of “America’s Top 30 Black Leaders Under 30″ by Ebony magazine in 2005.
Dr. Hill engaged the audience with anecdotes of his life experiences and lessons including obstacles and triumphs, educational journey and career paths, a period of homelessness and time spent as a political commentator on FOX News. His reflections on historical events like Dr. King’s legacy and the “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, and on the challenges and progress of not only African Americans but all Americans captivated and motivated the audience to do more. His call to action was clear; we don’t have to travel far when there are those within our own communities in need of help. A blanket for the homeless, words of encouragement to someone who needs uplifting, becoming a mentor so youth can see beyond their current environment to all the possibilities life has to offer. Hill’s message invoked a simple question, one of self-reflection, “what legacy will I leave behind?”
Hill left two pieces of advice for the youth in attendance: “figure out what you want to be in life and align your thoughts and actions according to your dream, but most importantly practice patience.” He went on to say that in today’s society, young people are so accustomed to the fast-moving pace of social media, the internet and immediate gratification that they are reluctant to put in the time it takes to accomplish their goals and dreams.
The next lesson came through another anecdote from when Hill was 19 and living on the streets. Another homeless man, a military veteran, told him he didn’t belong there. The veteran went on to ask the youngster what he wanted to be in life to which he replied “a college professor.” He then, however, went on lamenting about being too old at 19 to return to school, the years it would take him to complete his degree, and so on. When he was done making excuses, the veteran replied, “Dummy, eight years is going to go by anyway; you just won’t be a college professor!” It was the wakeup call he needed to change the course of his life.