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(Keynote Address: The 2002 "Project 2019 Annual Conference")
For some of you, this is the 3rd time that I have had the honor of addressing you at the Project 2019 Annual Conference Banquet. If you remember, on each occasion I have told you something about myself while delivering my remarks. In keeping with this tradition, I will again share something about myself with you. And, in the process, you may learn something about yourselves - the supporters of Project 2019.
However, before "I" tell you about me, let me first tell you what "people" say "about" me. Before anybody gets nervous and starts to wonder what I heard - let me qualify what I just said. I will tell you some of the things that people say about me - to my face.
For example, I have been told that I have a habit of "preaching to the choir." I guess that is meant to say that I often discuss Project 2019 with those who already understand and already believe in Project 2019. These are people who have college degrees - or their children, their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. are in college or are headed to college. These are people who already value education and knowledge.
In my defense, I "preach" about Project 2019 to anyone who will listen - it's just that the choir happens to always be around. In any case, it is not my intention to preach. What I am attempting to do is to explain - and to inspire.
I am attempting to explain - that it is not enough to just be concerned about "you and yours." Only being concerned about "you and yours" is what is known as a "plantation mentality." And, as I noted in my remarks last year, it is one of the three most insidious black legacies that we must overcome if we are to survive as a people. You see, the problem with having a plantation mentality is that we no longer "live" on plantations.
"I" understand that. If I did not understand it, there would not have been a Project 2019 - because "I" have a college degree. My oldest son has a college degree. My daughter has an undergraduate degree, a masters degree, and she will have her doctorate in psychology in a few months. I have a brother and sisters who have college degrees. My sister, Dr. Juanita Martin, was just honored here tonight for having earned her doctorate. Almost all of my nieces and nephews have college degrees or - are on their way to earning college degrees. So, I am "one" person here tonight who could easily have a plantation mentality - because "me and mine" are doing just fine.
However, as it turns out, my college degree is in history. And what I learned while earning that degree and studying a lot of black history, is that for 246 years of Slavery, millions of black folks picked a whole lot of cotton so that I could stand here tonight and tell you about the success of my family. Millions of black Americans made unbelievable sacrifices so that I could stand here tonight and brag about my son the corporate executive and my daughter the psychologist. And millions of black Americans died, or to be more accurate, were "worked to death" so that I could stand here tonight, in a suit and tie, having steak for dinner, and not worrying about having to get up at sunrise tomorrow morning and pick cotton until the sun goes down.
It is for these reason that I care about "all" black Americans - not just "me and mine." I care about the black Americans who got us to this place. And I care about the black Americans who will be here long after I am gone.
The problem with having a plantation mentality is that we no longer live on plantations. We live in a global world. We certainly live in an open Americans society. And, yes, you can put on a white shirt and a tie but you are and will always be a black man or a black woman in America - and you will be racially profiled for that reason alone.
And, even if you no longer live in the black community, you still must take your chances just like every other black American when you visit friends and relatives in the black community. White America has certainly learned "this" lessons - that in the 21st century, you can no longer isolate yourself from black Americans - they are everywhere. So, we must care about each and every black American as much as we care about "us and ours."
Again, it is not my intention to preach. I am attempting to explain Project 2019 to the "members of the choir" and - more importantly - I am attempting to inspire the "members of the choir" to do more than to just sit in the choir stand, wave their arms, nod their heads, and say "amen."
Which bring me to another thing that people say about me - to my face. They say that Project 2019 may be my full time job but I forget that other people have full time jobs and full time lives. I understand that. Project 2019 is "my" full time job. It's also my part time job. Okay, Project 2019 is my life.
However, I am not asking you to let Project 2019 completely disrupt your life - at least, not until Project 2019 can afford to pay you for your time and effort. But let me ask you this? How many of you can "not" spare one hour per week in your very busy lives for something as important as Project 2019?
There are 168 hours in a week. And if all 168 hours of your week are booked solid, then I would ask you to evaluate and decide if everything you are doing in those 168 hours is "more important" than paying off the debt that we owe to our ancestors - and - "more important" than making a better future for our children?
And, when I say the future of "our children," it is not in the context of a "plantation mentality." I am talking about the future of "all" black children. Even so, if you are just looking out for your children and grandchildren, let me assure you that if Project 2019 succeeds, it will increase the probability of success for your children and grandchildren.
In the year 2019, when your son or grandson is up for a promotion to vice president somewhere out there in corporate America, his chances of getting that promotion will be a whole lot better if the CEO of the company is a black man. In the year 2019, when your daughter or granddaughter goes to a bank to apply for a loan to start her own business, her chances of getting that loan will be a whole lot better if that bank is owned by a black woman. This is the reason why other ethnic groups who "just" got to America are so successful. They do not have to overcome a legacy of "plantation mentality." They understand that, as a people, they will all succeed together - or they will all fail together.
One hour per week - four hours per month - 52 hours per year. I have no doubt that if everyone here tonight were to spend 52 hours over the next years working to make Project 2019 a success, then we would change the future of black America.
And this brings me to one more thing that people say about me - to my face. They say that I am not "specific enough" about what it is that people should be doing. So, here are some suggestions and all of them can all be accomplished in 52 hours or less per year.
You can start and operate a Project 2019 Chapter in your community, your church, or even in your family. Now, if you want to recruit 25 or 50 members for your Chapter, have fund raisers, march through the black community spreading the word of Project 2019, and so forth, I would be absolutely thrilled. However, you can start a Project 2019 Chapter that is much less complicated and time consuming but just as effective. All that you need to do is to sit down with a group of black children - and read a book.
You can start with the book, Project 2019. Read it aloud to the children and, if they are old enough, have them read it aloud to you. Explain the ideas and concepts in the book to them and even have them to memorize some of the more important messages. And when you finish the book, Project 2019, start them on another book that has a positive message. This is something that you can accomplish in 52 hours a year - an average of one hour per week of your time.
Another suggestion: You can start a Project 2019 Grade Incentive program in your community, your church, or your family. This past Easter Sunday, some of our young nephews and a niece were rewarded with a few dollars for the good grades they had received on their latest report cards. As part of the process, we had copies of the report cards and each child was required to walk around to various relatives and discuss their grades - the good one and the not so good ones.
The point of this exercise was for these kids to understand that we all care about how well they do in school and that their grades are not just "their" business - they are the business of the entire family. This is something that you can easily accomplish in 52 hours a year - an average of one hour per week of your time.
Another suggestion: You may not have to start a Project 2019 Chapter or a Project 2019 Grade Incentive program from scratch. Almost every black church in America has a tutoring or mentoring program, a scholarship program, or a grade incentive program. Project 2019 would be well on it way to success if we could "associate" Project 2019 with each of these programs.
I am also convinced that it would be the answer to the question - "why aren't blacks who become successful willing to give something back to the community?" It is because they "do not feel obligated" to the community. They feel that their success is the result of their hard work, their effort, and maybe the sacrifices of their families - and that the community had "nothing" to do with it.
I know this to be a fact because I have attempted and failed to get dozens of successful black college graduates involved in Project 2019. And it is not like they did not understand. The message of Project 2019 is very simple. White Americans with college degrees are the most successful whites in America. Black Americans with college degrees are the most successful blacks in America. And, based on percentages of population, whites earn almost twice as many college degrees as blacks. So, why are we surprised that the social and economic conditions for white Americans are two times better than they are for black Americans?
It is not that successful black college graduates do not understand. It is that they do not feel "any" responsibility or obligation to those "who were left behind."
On the other hand, "what if" every black American who graduated from college over the next 17 years was aware of Project 2019 - was inspired by Project 2019 - or was assisted by Project 2019? I am convinced that they would finally understand that they do, in fact, owe their success - in part - to the efforts of "all" black Americans.
We could begin to accomplish this miracle in our black churches. Note that I am not talking about changing the names of church programs. Almost every program that I am aware of is named after the church that sponsors it, the name of the pastor that began the program, or the name of some other person who was instrumental in founding the program - and I understand the desire to continue this tradition. I am "only" talking about incorporating Project 2019 into each program so that there is a sense of "community" - a sense of "black unity" - and a sense of a "national" black effort - as oppose to the plantation mentality that continues to hold us back.
Incorporating Project 2019 into your church's education ministry is something that can be accomplished in 52 hours per year - an average of one hour per week of your time.
Now, I suppose that there are some people who might still insist that, even with Project 2019 being as important as it is, they do not have even one hour per week to spare. If this is the case, you must be working "a lot" of hours. In which case, the solution for you may be to contribute financially to Project 2019. You can purchase 10, 20, or 50 copies of the book, Project 2019, and donate them to a group that is attempting to start a Project 2019 Chapter.
And if none of these specific suggestions as to what you can do to help is appropriate for you, please see me and I am sure that we can find something that will fit your schedule, your talents, or your budget.
The "key" is to "do something" - or in the words of Nike - "just do it." Now, this slogan may sound trite - and perhaps it is. But consider this - the Nike Corporation has spent millions of dollars developing, testing, and promoting those 3 little words - "just do it." And what is it that they want you to do? Well, I will tell you.
Don't think about the fact that your rent will be due in another 30 days. Don't put your money in a college fund for your child. Don't go buy 10 or 20 books for your child to read. Take that money and go buy your child a pair of $200 gym shoes. Don't think about it - just do it.
Now, I am sure that all the "doers" who are here tonight can appreciate the beauty of the Nike slogan and understand why it works so well. But, if you are not a "doer," you may require some elaboration. This is also the point that, as I promised, I will reveal something about myself to you.
In preparing my remarks for this evening, my first sentence was going to be something like "thank you for your participation." But, when I thought about it and eventually looked up the word "participate" in the dictionary, I realized that "participate" was not accurate. In fact, most of the people who are here this evening are doing more than just "participating" in Project 2019.
After thinking about it some more, I came to the conclusion that when it comes to organizations like Project 2019 - and indeed, life in general - you need more than participation in order to be successful. So, I came up with three broad categories - and I am convinced that we all fall into one of these 3 categories.
And you need to pay attention because there "will be" a test a little later.
The 3 categories are visionaries - doers - and leaders. And I believe that we all possess some degree of each of these 3 elements. However, I do not believe that any one person has all three in "equal" amounts. Therefore, you can be 90% leader, 5% doer, and 5% visionary. Or, you can be 50% visionary, 25% leader, and 25% doer. Or, you can be 85% doer, 10% visionary, and 5% leader - or any other combination of the 3 categories. The point is that "1 category" will be "dominant" over the other 2.
Now, I am not sure if you are born with these qualities or if they develop over your lifetime - or a combination of both. However, I am convinced that these are personality traits and therefore have very little to do with intelligence, education, knowledge, morality, etc. For example, it took someone to envision the idea of the Klu Klux Klan. There are KKK leaders and three are certainly KKK doers.
In any case, I would be willing to bet that if you thought about it, you would be able to assign a percentage of each of these qualities to yourself - and I would be willing to bet that you could assign percentages of these 3 qualities to many of the people that you know.
And I will start the ball rolling. I am much more of a visionary than I am a leader or a doer.
Here is how visionary is defined in the dictionary:
As a verb, envision is defined as follows : To picture in the mind
As an adjective, visionary is defined as follows : Marked by vision or foresight - Having the nature of fantasies or dreams - Not practicable, utopian
And as a noun, visionary is defined as follows : One given to speculative, often impractical ideas
Now, I can see those of you out there who "really" know me nodding your heads and mumbling to yourselves - "yeah that's Chuck." So, let me say 3 things about these definitions.
First of all - so that my mother does not start worrying about me any more than she already does - I have never had "visions" - I do not currently have visions - and I do not intend to start having visions in the future. However, I am a thinker. I love to ponder. I love to play "what / if" games. And, I love to think about and come up with solutions to problems. I enjoy these things much more than I enjoy leading "or" doing. I sometimes think that I "should be" more of a leader or that I "could be" more of a doer. However, I have come to understand and accept that "this" is the person that I am.
The second thing that I want to note about the definition of visionary is that, although it mentions "speculative, often impractical ideas," it does not say "impossible ideas." And, if you think about it, there have been a lot of ideas that were considered "impractical" at the time they were introduced.
For example, if you think about it, the idea of putting a man on the moon within "one decade" was an impractical idea. But, as it turned out, it was not an impossible idea. And, if you think about it - after 340 years of not having civil rights - it was an impractical idea that within "one decade" black Americans could win their struggle for civil rights. In fact, if you lived during this time, you know that many of us thought that it was an impossible idea.
That is why men like John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King did not say that they had "a plan." Kennedy "challenged" America to reach the moon before the end of the 1960's and Dr. King said that he had "a dream."
The third thing I want to say about visionaries is that you all know some visionaries. They are usually the ones who, when you see them coming, you look around for someone else to talk to because they are always "talking crazy" - talking about some grandiose idea that is going to save the world - or some idea that will make you or them a millionaire in 3 months or less.
Hopefully, the difference between them and me is that my ideas are not that crazy. Hopefully, my vision of America can be realized - an America where blacks have reached absolute equality. An America where blacks are measured "socially and economically" not by the color of their skin but by the education and knowledge that they possess.
If visionary is not your predominant personality trait when it comes to organization like Project 2019 - and life in general - then you may be a "leader."
As a verb, "lead" is defined as follows : To guide,
conduct, escort, or direct.
To influence, to induce. To be ahead or to be at the lead.
And we all know leaders - the leaders of families, the leaders of companies, the leaders of your church - and even gang leaders. And I would argue that they are all more alike than they are different. It is only their circumstances that have determined what or who they are leading. That is, I believe that if someone who is now the CEO of a major corporation had grown up without any role models, with no education, and no opportunity, that person may well have become a gang leader. And if someone who is now a gang leader had grown up with hope, education, and opportunity, that person may well have become a CEO of a major corporation.
This is to say that I subscribe to the theory that some people are "born leaders." They will find "a way to lead." They will find "something to lead." And they will find "someone to lead." One of our challenges is to do all that we can to ensure that the leaders and potential leaders in our black community have a positive outlet for their leadership aspirations and leadership skills.
And finally, if visionary or leader is not your predominant personality trait when it comes to organization like Project 2019 - and life in general - then you may be a "doer."
As a verb, "to do" is defined as follows : To perform or to execute. To produce. To fulfill, to complete. To bring about, to effect
As a noun, "doer" is defined as follows : One
who does something.
Especially an active, energetic person.
One could argue that leaders, doers, and visionaries are all equally important in a movement like Project 2019 - and life in general. However, if one is more important than the others, it is the doers. You see, there are a lot of visionaries who go unheard or their visions unfulfilled. And there are lots of leaders who are leading hopeless or even detrimental causes and efforts.
Further more, no politician with any amount of vision has ever won a war. No general, no matter how great his or her leadership skills, has ever won a war. The people who win wars are the strong, brave, hardworking, long-suffering soldiers who are on the front lines in every battle of that war.
Consider the Civil Rights movement: Martin Luther King with his vision and his dream was certainly important. All the leaders of the movement were certainly important. But you should know that before Dr. King, there were men who had "a vision" and women who had "a dream." And there were men and women who were ready to lead. However, "they" were ignored. And Dr. King and leaders of the Civil Right movement would have also been ignored if it were not for the doers - the brave men, women, and children who faced water hoses, police dogs, and even lynch mobs.
Dr. King and the leaders of the Civil Rights movement were not ignored because 9 black children walked past federal troops in 1959 to integrate Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas. Dr. King and the leaders of the Civil Rights movement were not ignored because these 9 young heroes toughed it out at Central High School. They endure the scorn and the racial taunts - day after day after day after day - long after Dr. King and the others had moved on to their next challenge. These 9 young men and women may have been visionaries. They may have been leaders. But, first and foremost, they were "doers." They performed. They produced. They fulfilled. They completed. They brought about a change.
Another reason why all the "doers" in the world are so important is because "there is strength in numbers." There is power in numbers. This is true in life - and it is even true in death. You know what happens when a plane crashes and 200 people are killed. Reporters rush to the scene. The TV stations interrupts scheduled programming to report on the crash. There are investigations and official reports. There are memorial services and everyone from airline officials to the governor of the state will attend.
Now, do you know what will happen during the first "two days" that the airplane crash is major news? Approximately, "218" people will die in automobile accidents across the country. And more than 100 more will die the next day and the next day and the next day. Indeed, on average, more than 100 Americans will die every day of the year in auto accidents. And, at best, you may hear about 10 or 20 per year on your local news.
Certainly, these deaths are no less tragic. Certainly, the families are in no less pain. And yet, there will be no outpouring of the nation's sympathy for these poor souls. The auto makers will not be sending ministers and grief counselors to console the families.. There will be no memorials and no dignitaries will attend the funerals. And the reason why is that these 100 people who are killed each day die - 1, 2, or 3 at a time. There is strength in numbers - in life - and even in death.
Consider September 11th and the attack on the World Trade Center. What would have been the results if the attack had taken place at 3:00 in the morning when there were only a few security guards in the buildings and if the planes were both half empty. Let's say that that instead of almost 3,000 being killed that less than 200 had been killed.
Yes, we would have still been angry. Yes, we would have still struck a blow against terrorism. However, I am convinced that we would not have been nearly as "enraged" as we were. I heard some of the nicest, most gentle people that I know saying we should start droping atomic bombs and not stop until we had wiped them "all" off the face of the earth - and, at the time, we were not even sure who "they" were. 3,000 people killed all at once. Yes, there is strength in number - in life - and in death.
Let me ask you this. What do you think would happen if there was a tragic fire in this ballroom tonight and everyone here was killed? Before, I continue, let me point out the emergency exit to my right and point out that there are glass windows over there behind those drapes. But, what do you think would happen? It would be all over the news from coast to coast. There would be investigations and reports. Our families would be consoled and compensated.
And - suddenly - overnight - Project 2019 would the most important black issue since the abolition of Slavery. I can hear Jesse Jackson at the memorial services saying that we were "all heroes." And then, of course, he would remind America that he has always been a proponent of reaching educational equality and that he planned to spend all his time and energy to make Project 2019 a success.
Better yet, or worse yet, let's say that a bunch of crazy skin heads or members of the KKK broke in and started shooting and throwing bombs. Oh my goodness !!! There would be an outpouring of sympathy not just in America but from around the world. We would not "just" be heroes - we would be elevated to the status of martyrs. And it would be Bishop Desmond Tutu at the memorial service saying how he had always been a proponent of reaching educational parity and that he would do every thing in his power to make Project 2019 a success. Why - because there is strength in numbers - in life - and in death.
Now, luckily, neither of these events is likely to happen. However, what "most assuredly" will happen is that over the next few years or over the next few decades, every one in this room will die. And every one of us will probably die 1, or 2, or at most, 3 at a time. Some of us will slip away in our sleep, some of will die in tragic events.
Such was the case last weekend when two more young black men were shot and killed on the South side of Chicago. One of the young men was a friend of my son and a friend to others who are here this evening. He was a decent young man who had been in my home on a number of occasions. But, there were no headlines.
The only news coverage I saw was one paragraph on page 4 of the Metro section of the Tribune. (Show clipping.) Compare this to the thousands of pictures and the "millions" of lines of news coverage for the events of September 11th. And, yet, within a matter of months, 3,000 more young black men will die in tragic deaths like this (show clipping) all across our country.
Yes, we will all die. And, therefore, the only thing that really matters is how we live our lives. And, of course, the answer to that question is up to each and every "individual" here this evening. However, it is also up to all of us - "collectively." And that is because - although there is strength in numbers in death - there is "even more" strength in numbers in life.
We, the people in this room, can be heroes without all of us dying a tragic death together - but rather by living a purposeful life together. Not only can we make a difference - we can change the world - and, if not the entire world - certainly the world of black America that we live in. We can change our world by doing what each of us do best - by being a leader - by being a visionaries - or by being a doer.
If you remember, I said that there would be a test. Well, here it is. Take a look inside of yourself and decide what percentage of your personality is leader, what percentage is doer, and what percentage is visionary.
Now, the total should add up to 100%. However, if you are having trouble getting to 100%, you should know that the percentage of your personality that is left over is "participant."
The definition of participation is "to take part in" and the definition of a participant is "a person who participates; a partaker."
I don't know about you, but I certainly would not - could not - exist by simply "participating" in life. Even when I am "participating" in something, I still find myself envisioning how the world could be a better place or how I could be a better husband, father, or son.
So, I certainly hope that if at this point you are only participating in Project 2019 that you consider becoming a leader in the movement, a doer in the movement, or a visionary in the movement - because you can not change the world - indeed, you can not even change your own life - if you only participate in it.
Time is moving on. Some of you were present at the Project 2019 Banquet in 2000 when I reminded you that there were only 19 years before the year 2019. Some of you were present at last years Banquet when I reminded you that there are only 18 years until the year 2019. And today, I will remind you that there are only 17 years until the year 2019.
Time is moving on and it will continue to move on. The year 2019 will come. I may not be here and some of you may not be here. But our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and nephews, and cousins will be here. So many of the people who we love will be here in the year 2019. And I, for one, want them to all live in an America that is different than the America that I grew up in. And based on everything that I understand and everything that I know, there is only one way to make that happen - black Americans must reach educational and knowledge equality with the rest of America.
The year 2019 will arrive and for those of us who will be around to see it - the only question is how we - as black Americans - will celebrate that year. Will the year 2019 be a year of regret and lost opportunities. Will we spend the year 2019 moaning and groaning and lamenting about we have been enslaved and oppressed for 400 years in America?
Or will we celebrate the year 2019 by showing ourselves and the world what black Americans are truly capable of? Will we celebrate by demonstrating how we overcame all the pain - all the suffering - and all the obstacles to become a great people in a great land? The answers to these questions depend solely on you - and I - and what we do today - tomorrow - and over the next 17 years.
A great deal has been accomplished since I first told some of you about Project 2019. There are literally thousands of people who now know about Project 2019. I have discussed Project 2019 - in a very brief conversation - with Jesse Jackson. I have discussed Project 2019 with black ministers and leaders of the NAACP. I have sent a copy of my book and Project 2019 information to everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Bill Cosby and to every member of the United States Senate. I have been on television shows and radio shows and I spend hours on e-mail corresponding with supporters all across the country.
Much has been accomplished and, yet, there is so much more to be accomplished. And for this, Project 2019 needs all of the doers, all the visionaries, and all the leaders who are here this evening.
In February, during Black History Month, thanks to my life-long friend Robert Allen, I had the opportunity to do a series of Project 2019 presentations at Malcolm X College. There is something that I told the students and - in closing - I will repeat it to you. Yes, we need to study our black history. But, even more importantly, we are in a unique position to not just study history - we are, in fact, in a position to - make black history.
One of the most important things that I have learned from studying history is that 99% of the people who end up "making history" were not "born to make history." The one percent who were the exceptions were the first-born sons of kings and were destined to inherit their father's throne - and there were a few others who were born into prominent and influential families. However, "these" are the exceptions. 99% of the people who ultimately "made history" were very much like me - and each and every one of you.
So, I will end my remarks by saying it again. "You" can make history. You can help destroy all the negative legacies that we are burden with as a result of 246 years of Slavery followed by 103 years of the Jim Crow era.
You can help create new - positive legacies that will carry black America into the 21st century and beyond.
You can make history - history that your children, your children's children, and all future generations of black Americans can look back on - with pride - with dignity - and with joy.
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