Friday, April 30, 2010
“Yes We Can!” This is the phrase that reverberated throughout lecture halls, in convention centers and in the comfort of our homes as we watched then Presidential hopeful Barack Obama on his quest to ascend to the highest Office in the U.S. “Yes We Can” are also the words that Dr. Charles Smith, vice president of Student Affairs for SC State University, stressed to students during their Guidance 210 Professional Development class coordinated by the University’s Career Center.
Smith, the author of the book, “The Last Shall Be the First,” was also on a quest when he decided to embark on his latest project. “This book says that you are never too old to go for your dream,” stated Smith. “If you are willing to do the work, you can achieve your dream.”
“The Last Shall Be the First” is also a title that should resonate with students. Smith, who focuses on African-Americans in other fields such as science, entertainment, sports and education, stresses that these giants did not achieve success overnight without first overcoming their personal struggles. These icons, such as Bill Cosby who first dropped out of school before returning and attaining a B.A., M.A. and Ed.D., or Sidney Poitier who moved to New York at 17 because he was prone toward delinquency, demostrate that those who you never thought could, can be the ones who lead you to a place of pride, hence the title, “The Last Shall Be the First.”
“Some of these individuals were average people who came from poor homes and faced many struggles, but they had a dream,” said Smith. Students were excited to hear Smith speak about other African-Americans who are a testament to the idea that dreams can be realized. Smith noted the contributions of those such as Shirley Chisholm, and Charles Drew who invented the blood bank in 1940. In these stories that are presented, Smith says, “hopefully you can find some inspiration that may resemble your life.”
Shieka Glenn, a psychology major, says that the book is an inspiration to her. “There are so many people who are not aware of the many African-Americans before us that were the first lawyers, the first judges, or the first black American woman to reach the rank of brigadier general, Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown who was a soror of mine.” Glenn smiled and flashed her Delta sign to ascertain her similarity with Brown. Darryl Broome, a senior psychology major, noted that he most strongly identified with President Obama simply because “I know him,” stated Broome. “He’s from our time.”
According to Smith, this is a time that proves circumstances have changed drastically from the era of segregation, just one of the struggles that most African-American achievers had to withstand. Before Obama was appointed President, Smith reminisced with students and told them a story about an old Caucasian man in a remote North Carolina town. He overheard this man speaking on his phone. In a Southern twang, Smith recollected the conversation in which the man stated, we have got to get the people together and vote for Obama. I don’t care about his color. This man represents change.
“Everyone has something unique about them. Everyone has a talent,” stated Smith. “You can’t discourage them because they come from here or there. See them as people and help them tap into their talent. You can be a person of color like Obama, or a woman and achieve a high level of success. ‘Yes We Can.’ ”
For additional information about the book, “The Last Shall Be the First,” or to purchase your copy, visit the website at www.outskirtspress.com.