Op-EdOpinion

WILLIAMS: Paying it Forward

Among the worst behavior of the man in the White House that one could ever imagine, there is still so much good in the world. Leading up to another Memorial Day, when we thank military men and women, remember to thank Dr. Robert F. Smith, who set an awesome example of how those who’re so blessed can help others who’ve not been.

Sunday, May 19 was already a special day because it was the birthday of Malcolm X. Then came the Morehouse graduation and the wonderful announcement of the graduation speaker who talked about his blessings and announced that he’d be donating enough funds to wipe out the student loan debt of Morehouse’s nearly 400 members of the 2019 graduating class!

Once he made the statement, there were a lot of questions such as, “Did I understand correctly what he just said?” Suddenly the students stood in unity realizing they really weren’t going to be saddled with the heavy debt they’d incurred while getting an education. It’s possible many of them didn’t know that graduates of historically Black colleges and universities have higher debt after graduating than students at other schools.

With a price tag of $50,000 per year at Morehouse, these students were about to be included in that number. With Dr. Smith’s announcement, lives were suddenly changed. It was such a blessing to see young men making commitments to pay it forward. Especially gratifying was the announcement of a couple of young graduates who’d already made a commitment to give back at least $100,000 to Morehouse by the time they are 32 years old. Now they were looking at doing it sooner because they would no longer be saddled with massive student debt.

Imagine how many thoughts went through the minds of these young men about how they could pay it forward! May they never forget how blessed they are, but also may they never forget there’s still a student debt crisis. Those who’ve been blessed as they have should add to their lists ways they can rise to the challenge of helping others. I pray that others who’ve been blessed as Dr. Smith has will join him in making similar pledges to young women and men throughout the nation who struggle daily to get an education.

I remember the day I gave my first donation to my alma mater, Grambling University. It didn’t even come close to what Dr. Smith did, but I did my best with what I had. His doing so much at one time should not discourage each HBCU graduate to do a little bit on a regular basis. Predominantly and historically Black colleges and universities have never been given their fair share when compared with other colleges and universities, but we should be that bridge over troubled waters until HBCUs are treated with fairness.

Dr. Smith, who received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse, has made a big leap for humankind. We may never be able to match the gift of Dr. Smith that is more than about the money he gave. It’s about that spirit of lifting as we climb that many of us learned in grade school. Let us get back to that and our communities will be better for our effort. Keep in mind that he just founded his business in 2000 and look what he’s done! He’s donated to other worthy causes. Twenty years from now, try to be proud when you look back and count the difference you’ve made in the lives of others. We don’t have to match Dr. Smith. Let’s just give all we can give and serve all the great causes we can serve. That’s still paying it forward.

Williams is national president of the National Congress of Black Women.

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