Some commencement addresses are more interesting than others

If you’re conscious of racial inequality in America at all, you know that a major disadvantage faced by young Black people is that on average their parents aren’t in nearly as good a financial position as the parents of their White peers. When they start out at young adults, Black kids are less likely to get parental help buying their first house because their parents are less likely to be able to afford to help them than White parents are. The same goes for college tuition help. 

Many years ago, a Black boy growing up in Denver got the opportunity to go to a top notch elementary school across town. That experience gave him a tremendous boost. As a result, he did very well. He was a chemical engineer who switched to the private equity business. He’s now worth an estimated five billion dollars. He knows the value of a boost. His name is Robert F. Smith.

The day before yesterday, Sunday, May 19, he gave the commencement address at Morehouse College, an elite HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and University) in Atlanta. The college is all male, with a graduating class of 396. 

The class listened intently. He talked about some things you’d expect a commencement speaker to talk about. But then he said something his audience didn’t expect, I mean really didn’t expect, including Morehouse administrators.

”My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans.”

And he told them to help others as they went along, to pay it forward. They should be able to accumulate wealth more quickly than initially expected, and they all understand that they are expected to help others in turn. 

The value of that commitment, depending on whom you ask, could be anywhere from about ten million dollars to about forty million dollars. Of course, not all the students had loans. 

He gave a major boost to an elite group of young men and undoubtedly created a lot of mentors and philanthropists in one shot. The consequences of this should be seen for generations. As we know by average differences in Black and White wealth, differences have consequences for generations. 

I hope he inspires other philanthropists to follow his example. Including some future philanthropists from the Morehouse Class of 2019.

Views: 93

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on May 21, 2019 at 8:08pm

The problem w this, of course, as generous as it is, is that it allows people relatively untouched by poverty and inferior educational opportunities to intensify the American fantasy that Prince Charmings are the genuine American Answer and that structural change is unnecessary.

Comment by koshersalaami on May 21, 2019 at 8:20pm

On the other hand, this could up being a case study of what structural change would accomplish. 

Comment by Ron Powell on May 22, 2019 at 4:31am

It would be to his everlasting credit that he inspires not just other philanthropists, but inspires others to become philanthropists.

Comment by Ron Powell on May 22, 2019 at 4:54am

Re structural change:

Andrew Yang (born on January 13, 1975)[2] is an American entrepreneur, politician, philanthropist, the founder of Venture for America (VFA), and a U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. He worked in startupsand early-stage growth companies as a founder or executive from 2000 to 2009. After he founded VFA, the Obama administrationselected him in 2012 as a "Champion of Change" and in 2015 as a "Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship".

In November 2017 Yang launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.[3] His signature issue is support for what he calls the "Freedom Dividend", a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI) for every American adult aged 18–64. Yang believes UBI is a necessary response to the rapid development of automation that is leading to workforcechallenges.[4]

Comment by Steel Breeze on May 22, 2019 at 5:30am

this was a fine move,we need more like him....

Comment by koshersalaami on May 22, 2019 at 5:47am

I'm a fan of Andrew Yang. I hope he really influences the election. 

Comment by Ron Powell on May 22, 2019 at 5:56am

Kosh, it would be impossible for you not to be a fan of Yang. He has put his finger squarely on your signature economic issue and solution:

To stimulate and grow a free market economy, put money in the hands of people who must spend it...

Comment by koshersalaami on May 22, 2019 at 7:22am


Comment by Maui Surfer on May 22, 2019 at 8:02am

Smith is a true American HERO.

"aren’t in nearly as good a financial position as the parents of their White peers."  Come on Kosh, your heart is in the right place but this doesn't even come close to the FACTS- White household worth is, due to Slavery, Segregation, Racism, Jim Crow and outright hate through redlining, well, it is 150 times that of Black households, hardly a small number. One thing it does explain is why when Blacks succeed they do so with so much huge success, when those are the odds you end up so much better than your opponents (think Ali) that it isn't even a contest. Oh, and they stole his best four years on trumped up racist war charges when he clearly had C.O. status through religion, you know, America, the land of free Religion?

Anyone not believing in UBI is simply living under a rock. I personally spoke to self made billionaire Vinod Khosla and his support of it made me actually give in to being civil to him after he tried to steal a popular surfing spot with his cash. UBI is the ONLY way out, and, it is coming, if the Repukes don't think so the Guillotine will change their minds, if you call that dark matter in their skulls such a thing.

Also, anyone who disagrees I laugh in the face of. When you succeed like Khosla, AN IMMIGRANT now a Billionaire, then we can discuss.

Comment by Anna Herrington on May 22, 2019 at 8:34am

Loved the faces of some of the graduates as what Smith was saying sank in.... I thought this a great and wonderful graduation gift for Morehouse Class of 2019.

...while on the internet those who are criticizing are saying then why did Smith vote for the tax loopholes that grew his billions and created larger debt for the graduates in the first place? I think that's the crux of the naysayers' point. ....maybe tweeted mostly by people suffering under their own student debt....?? Not sure, but adding their point in, here.

As for Yang and UBI, seems stopping at age 64 is ageist even if the thinking is by age 64 you've gathered your pile and don't need the cash, or SS money is kicking in then.... when the reality is so many older people really suffer trying to stay afloat into old age and until death. I'm all for it but would think age 18+ for life - period - would be more appropriate.


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