Florida A&M is no stranger to having prominent figures grace its campus. From Bill Cosby to Bill Clinton, FAMU has seen a plethora of icons over the years. The 2010 State of the Student Summit was no different.
On March 28, some very influential Americans graced the “Highest of Seven Hills” to talk about the condition of America and what young people can do to make a difference.
Students as well as professors and faculty members from FAMU, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College packed into Gaither Gym to listen to a panel of prestigious national and local figures at Sunday’s event.
The State of the Student Summit offered critical insight from an August panel that included Princeton professor and scholar Cornel West, Ph.D., former Essence magazine editor-in-chief Susan L. Taylor four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader and 21-year-old entrepreneur Hezekiah Griggs.
If the panelists were not enough of an indicator of how special the event would be, funk legend George Clinton’s impromptu appearance was.
“George Clinton in the house, Lord have mercy!” said West, before leaving his seat to embrace Clinton in the aisle.
After returning to the stage West opened with, “Let me first say I’m blessed to be back at the historic Florida A&M University,” to roaring applause.
West spoke on how students should be a “quality of service to others.”
“There’s too much back stabbing and too much disrespecting,” West said. What matters most is how you use that degree to help someone.”
Other panelists spoke on issues ranging from politics, tenacity, self-development and success.
“Critical thinking is your key to personal empowerment,” said Taylor, who spoke about personal evolution and spirituality. “The only place where infinite growth is possible is within us. When we come to know who we are from the inside out, then we know who we are.”
The former Essence editor was not only a favorite of the audience, but also of Griggs, who labeled her the “standard” in the magazine publishing industry.
Griggs, who grew up impoverished, gave an emotional speech about determination and perseverance.
“Regardless of the economy, you are somebody and can do whatever you want to do,” he said. “I’ve retired three times in my life; I’m 21-years-old. You should be able to achieve despite what’s going on in society .”
While answering an audience member’s question, Griggs got out of his seat and walked down to the front of the crowd to emphasize his points.
“What we become is based on our self-determination,” Griggs said ecstatically. “I ain’t no preacher but don’t push me,” said Griggs, putting his own spin on a Tupac Shakur lyric. “If you want to be a difference maker in the world, you can be a difference maker.”
While Griggs spoke on the power of inner strength, Nader discussed the importance of young people being involved with politics.
“If you ever let the reins loose of the people you send to Washington and Tallahassee, you’ll lose control of them. The way to change that is to run for office,” said Nader.