Springfield introduced me Friday as keynote speaker to nearly 200 people at the 48th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet hosted by the Lake County (Illinois) branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The theme of the event held at the Gurnee Holiday Inn: "For Future Generations to Come, Leave No Child Behind."
What did I know about Lake County before this night? Driving through it along I-94, past the Six Flags amusement park, between Chicago and Milwaukee too many times while my wife, Mira, and I lived in the Windy City; and golfing with my fraternity brother, Robert Simpson, near his home there. I, of course, know plenty about the NAACP, having covered many a meeting, protest or lawsuit involving its fight for justice and equality during my journalism career.
Talking for 30 minutes about leaving no child behind to so many people concerned about young people – including many elected officials and candidates seeking office on Nov. 4 – seemed no easy task. No grand new ideas for a federal or community program came to mind. Speaking as an educator, though, I felt comfortable asking the audience to consider 1) who outside one's family made a difference for each of us growing up, 2) why we must be present and with presence when it comes to someone young and 3) why ambitions matter more than limitations.
One-on-one "life meetings" with students in my office at Marquette served as a key thrust of my remarks. Heartwarming stories shared by students in my current digital journalism class at a moment's notice last week, about the respective people who made sure they were not left behind, did as well. It's a source of pride that three of the MU students who have met with me for career advice joined a university delegation at the banquet. This Facebook post by Simpson later that night, referring to his admirably dressed 11-year-old son, also left me beaming:
I won twice tonight. Had my little sidekick with me, Christian, who got a lesson on the significance of the NAACP in my life and on display my Marquette family. Herbert Lowe classily represented as the keynote at the NAACP's 48th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet in Gurnee. Cynthia Lockhart Springfield, another alum, was front and center ensuring the event was a success. My son can add another enriching experience in his young life.