January 18, 2018


This is excerpts from a speech that I gave to young people several years ago at an Urban League’s MLK breakfast event. The full speech is in the Resource Center.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968

….Dr. King stressed education because he knew that education could be a ticket out for poor folks whom he so deeply loved and served. I know some young folks think they can dribble or sky hook their way out, or gangster rap their way out, but that’s like looking at a mule’s behind and predicting how big a load it can pull. Sports and hip-hop are long-shots. Education is a sure thing. It’s your ticket out. It opens up endless possibilities, but it requires some sweat equity. As a farmer once said, you can’t plough the field by turning it over in your mind. We need you to take a big swig from the fountain of knowledge-don’t just gargle…….

Young people listen to me now. We need you to continue to be leaders and fill our colleges and not our jails. We need you in our talented and gifted classes and not our remedial ones. We need you to make the honor roll list and not the suspension list. Education is your ticket out.

That’s why we old heads get so frustrated and saddened when we hear young people talking about gang banging or read about kids fighting in school. We should never have to hear about a young person bringing a weapon to school. If you want to bring something, bring a library card or a NAACP card or better yet a report card scattered with A’s……

We need you to get prepared because in your lifetime, you will have a nation to run. But you have to be ready. I wish I could say that my generation has solved all of the racial problems that you will encounter but that would be a lie. Racism is still our reality, but it’s not our crutch. We have tried to make your path a bit easier but our work is far from finished, because we continue to build more prisons than schools. We still act as if the solution to problems in the black community is more police officers, rather than economic development.

We’ve got work to do and young people we need your help. If we’re ever going to turn things around we’re going to need motivated students like you. As our future leaders I need you to do three things while in school.

  1. I need you to study hard because you can’t teach what you don’t know, nor lead where you don’t go.
  2. Don’t separate yourselves—Get involved in school activities.
  3. Be academically prepared, which means homework done well, classes attended and research papers finished….

Sometimes when I challenge young people like this I have some students tell me, “Dr. Taylor you don’t understand what it’s like out here because you work with the big people. You have a PhD-you don’t understand.” I understand. I tell them that my PhD doesn’t stand for public high school diploma. It stands for hard work-paid his dues!

“But Dr. Taylor my situation is different. I’m just trying to survive day-to-day-you don’t understand.” I understand. In fact, I can tell your story. I didn’t always have a PhD. I know what it means to be poor. I was 16 years old before we had running water in my house. I understand. We used to joke if our bathroom burned down, it wouldn’t even make it to the back porch-I really do understand.

My first grade class was among the first to integrate my elementary school. I know what it’s like when people are mean to you and tell you that you’ll never amount to anything. I understand. I know about labels and name calling. My father was the hardest working man I know. He only had a 6th grade education. He worked from can’t see in the morning until can’t see at night so we could have a better life. I was born into poverty, but as Jesse Jackson says, ‘poverty was not born in me.’  So I’m telling any student who’ll listen-that you can make it, if you’re motivated.

Education is your ticket out. Don’t give up; never surrender your dreams. There are people right here in this room that will help you, if you just ask, so don’t you ever surrender! Education is your ticket out. Word!

Thank you and may God bless you.


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