Are you preparing for your opportunity?

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 20, 2021. Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS

Over the last two weeks, we have witnessed some major events in history.  We witnessed; the first female being sworn in as the Vice President of the United States.  Congratulations Vice President, Kamala Harris.  As I was celebrating the Vice President, those of us watching the inauguration, were introduced to a new star, a female poet by the name of Amanda Gorman.   Amanda Gorman, 22, performed an original poem, entitled, “The Hill We Climb”.   In her poem, she called for healing and unity, and celebrated the diversity of our Nation.  She also challenged us to rise to the occasion and live up to our highest ideals.

Amanda’s performance, and the depth of her words, has led to new opportunities.  She has recently signed a modeling contract with IMG Models, and she is scheduled to recite a poem at the upcoming Superbowl.  Her outstanding performance has caused the presale of her recent book to rise to #1 on Amazon, and now her other books have gained attention.

Amanda was ready for her opportunity, which has led to future opportunities.  If you heard Amanda share her story, it was not without struggle and obstacles.   She however did not let that stop her. 

For myself, last week, I had the opportunity to present my research on animated videos and storytelling at the Association of American Colleges and Universities annual conference.  Over the years, I have given many speeches and presentations.  However, this was a new one for me, sharing the stage with my Academic peers.  Since I have given the presentation, I have now been asked to share my research in Academic Journals, and to other educational institutions.  This has opened a new door for me.   

As I thought about Amanda Gorman, and myself, I was reminded that we must be ready for our opportunities.  We never know when a new opportunity will present itself.  Therefore, I want to ask you a few questions. “What are you doing to prefect your gift?”  “Are you allowing the negativity of others to block you?”  And finally, “Are you making sure that when opportunity knocks, you are ready?”

As individuals we will all have to settle these questions, as we pursue the achievement of our dreams.   The path is not always easy, and the work is hard, but it is our commitment, and being ready for our opportunity, that prepares us for that open door.

Dr. Regina Banks-Hall

Strive

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Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

During the month of February, we honor notable African Americans.  Today, I want to talk about Booker T. Washington and the concept of striving.  Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was born into slavery and rose to become a leading African American intellectual of the 19th century.  He was one of the founders of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, renamed Tuskegee University in 1881. He also founded, the National Negro Business League.

After the civil war, his family relocated to Malden, West Virginia.  His mother later remarried and then took on the last name of his stepfather.  Booker had to work and was only allowed to go to school after his morning shift.

He learned about the Hampton Institute, a school for former slaves, and would walk 500 miles to Hampton, where he excelled.  He went on to study at Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C., but after impressing Brigadier General Samuel Chapman, he was invited to return to Hampton as a teacher in 1879.

Booker would go on to be an advisor to multiple U.S. Presidents, and was a dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite.  Booker became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants who were oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws.
Booker’s life was not without challenges. He found himself at odds with other negro leaders, over the issue of racial equality for African Americans.  He called for black progress through education and entrepreneurship, while others sought to fight the laws of Jim Crow directly. He remained a leader and figurehead at Tuskegee University until his death.

Booker’s story is important, because he shows us that we must all strive to survive.  And we must also strive to thrive.  Life is not easy, it is filled with challenges, failures and setbacks. In most cases, only those who are determined to press through the challenges and setbacks overcome their adversity.

Many people created dreams and visions for 2020 and may have already given up because of a challenge or a setback.  However, in order to achieve your dreams, you must push through the adversity and get to the other side. Nothing that is worth something comes easy.  It is when you are challenged the most, that you must push the hardest.
Remember this quote by Booker T. Washington. “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

Strive to survive and strive to thrive in 2020.
Dr. Regina Banks-Hall