Wednesday, February 8, 2012
John Legend speaks, performs at UNT
Legend said that creativity is the key to creating a better world.
Music artist and activist John Legend urged students to creatively engage in finding ways to improve the education system, speaking Tuesday night as part of UNT’s Distinguished Lecture Series to an audience of about 2,500 people at the UNT Coliseum.
The nine-time Grammy winner and 2010 BET Humanitarian of the Year also played a handful of songs to a roaring, cheering audience that seemed to know every word to the chorus of “Ordinary People.”
Legend took audience questions after the lecture, stressing the importance of education in nurturing creative young minds to search for truth and create a new future.
Legend said that a broken education system that fails disadvantaged children needed to be fixed with ideas from students.
“You have unlimited potential to change the world,” Legend said. “Education gives you control over your destiny. Apply a fraction of your life to something greater.”
During the 40-minute speech, Legend said that creativity is the key to creating a better world and students will need to be creative in any field, whether that be music or business.
Legend himself worked at a consulting firm before becoming a recording artist.
“Creativity is an amazing resource,” Legend said. “So much of our humanity is involved in being creative.”
Creatively building a better education system was the theme of Legend’s speech, as he decried the state of public education in the U.S. and pointed out that Texas ranks No. 43 nationally in high school graduation rates.
“Our schools are crumbling and kids don’t have the chance to succeed,” Legend said. “We should give people a ladder out of poverty, and that ladder is education.”
He told of his own experiences growing up in Ohio, saying he grew up with more opportunities than many others. His graduating class from high school was half the size of his freshman class.
“I was the exception in my neighborhood,” Legend said. “I believe education is the civil rights movement of our generation.”
Legend urged students to get involved in schools through various programs such as Teach for America, which Legend is a board member of. Teach for America is a national nonprofit organization that sends qualified teachers to low-performing schools.
For merchandising sophomore Erika Ipina, Legend’s encouragement to get involved struck a chord.
“His message was very powerful,” Ipina said. “It’s definitely going to have an impact on my decisions.”
During the 20-minute question and answer session, Legend answered questions ranging from how to handle criticism to how to get in touch with Legend’s manager.
After the question and answer session, Legend performed several songs, including popular hits such as “Ordinary People,” “Everybody Knows,” and “Green Light.” An enthusiastic audience swayed to the music, a few holding up lighters and cell phones.
“It was beautiful. It touched my soul,” said Arelle Winchester, a communication studies sophomore who witnessed the performance. “It made me feel great.”
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