When Privilege Meets Responsibility

“We don’t think about the system failing because our educations were okay. I went to Harvard, you’re at UNC Chapel Hill. Most blacks from NC don’t have that opportunity. People say ‘You’re lucky.’ No you’re not.”  – Hill Harper, January 20, 2014


Sometimes it takes a few bold, jarring words to make you see the light. I’ve read somewhere before that the biggest human temptation is to settle, and to settle is to give less than a full effort, to never exceed anyone’s expectations.

It may seem like I’ve blogged a lot about mediocrity recently but it’s been my personal enemy for awhile and I intend to tackle it head-on this year. It is a lifelong battle ahead of me, as I have learned that not every obstacle you conquer remains defeated–it will find a way to show up again in another form. Tonight Hill Harper spoke for the Martin Luther King, Jr. lecture at my university and it was everything a lecture should be: riveting, motivating, soul-searching, insightful, witty, funny, and honest. It was both uplifting and convicting at the same time. You could say it was like a sermon.

I wanted to share some highlights that hit home for me in hopes that it will be helpful to you:

  • He said  that FEAR stands for “false evidence appearing real”
  • “We can’t be free if the price of being ourselves is way too high”
  • “Fear is mental; true courage is from the heart.” I was very excited by this discussion on fear, as courage and fearlessness have been my biggest mantras for getting through college.
  • The foundation of his speech was this quote from Bobby Kennedy: “The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to [their] ideals.”
  • Passion without smarts and focus is just scattered energy
  • We must turn our critical thinking toward ourselves and ask ourselves if we are being average, if we are settling, if we are challenging ourselves to do our best.
  • He told a story about meeting Barack Obama while at Harvard Law School and that many people would have told Obama not to go back to school and incur a load of debt at nearly 30 years old, not when he was a black man with a degree from Columbia, already “way ahead of the game.” His point was that we must have courage to take risks. That we should never settle for the idea that “we made it.” Just becausewe  have a great opportunity doesn’t give us the license to stop helping other people, to stop pursuing greater things. We should not stay in the roles society gives us.
  • Affirmations are effective and important – we should use them every day whether they are posted around for the sake of our subconscious or said aloud to ourselves.

Ultimately, we are not simply lucky to receive the privilege of an education; we are endowed with the responsibility to use it and make a positive change. Kind of makes you fired up about life, huh? Tell me what kinds of things you are passionate about or want to do. Drop a comment below and good luck on your next courageous move!