John Legend Empowers Penn State

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Last night, John Legend spoke and performed at Eisenhower Auditorium, to an extremely large crowd.

His speech focused on education, and how important equality and education is, especially in today’s society, where having a quality education is considered a privilege, not a right, to many.

“I know you are all intelligent and motivated, and ready to do big things,” Legend said, “You have unlimited potential.”

Legend discussed how college makes people question the status quo of the education system. He brought up a story from when he graduated high school, where half of his classmates did not graduate on time, or at all.

Schools, particularly those in inner cities, are becoming “dropout factories” and they help to perpetuate the poverty situation in America.

“Schools are literally and figuratively crumbling,” Legend said, noting that urban school districts are falling behind their non-urban counterparts.

Legend brought up how President Johnson’s Call to Action back in the 60s still reigns true today.

“We have progress but we still have a lot of progress to make. Education and equality are a civil rights issue of our generation today.”

Legend said that the education that students get at Penn State is a gift, where every student has potential to become something great. Having a quality education helps to give people control of their destinies.

Legend mentioned how he was deeply moved by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ book, Trips to Africa. When he read that book, he became inspired. When Sachs asked him to go to Africa with him, he jumped at the chance.

Growing up, his family struggled, but going to Africa and seeing the poverty there really opened his eyes and inspired him to start the Show Me Campaign. It gives others an opportunity to survive, thrive, and help themselves. The campaign also helps to fight for equal access to education in the United States.

He also brought up Teach for America, where he is one of the board members, and encouraged the crowd to learn more about the program, and to apply as a senior. Penn State ranks as number seven in Teach for America participation.

“No matter what you’re planning to do, aim high, don’t be afraid to take some leap of faith,” Legend also added, “Without some risk, we all miss out on the rewards of innovation.”

Legend does not believe demography determines destiny. Kids deserve a great education. “We must continue to make progress towards repairing our nation’s education system.”

“There’s so much opportunity for you to make change in the world. You’ve got so much power. So much opportunity,” Legend said, to empower the crowd.

Legend took some questions from the audience following his speech. He was told there was time for five questions, but said he’d take eight instead.

“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. You are all still young. You have so much in life to live,” he said, before telling a story about failure and making mistakes he went through. He was rejected from every record label that he initially applied to before he scored a deal.

He ended his lecture with a small set of songs played on his piano, which had the audience cheering and singing along:

  • Save Room
  • Used to Love U
  • Best You Ever Had
  • Green Light
  • Ordinary People

Photo By: Alex Federman
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About Author

Meghin is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in English. She transferred from the Harrisburg campus as a junior to finish out her schooling at University Park. She has a passion for all things music, fashion, art, and food. She's a Pennsylvania native (born outside of Pittsburgh, and lived in Lebanon for 11 years), but resides in Virginia when she's not in school, and has moved a total of ten times in her life, mostly thanks to the military.

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