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(Keynote Address: The 2003 "Project 2019 Annual Conference")
For those of you who have attended any of the three previous Annual Conference Banquets, you might have noted a recurring theme in my remarks. It is that I try to tell you something about me and I try to tell you something about yourselves. So, let me start by telling you something about me.
This year, what I will tell you about me is that - I now understand that "I am on a mission."
Now, that may sound a bit strange that I "now understand" that I am on a mission. But, until you have been - or you are currently on - a mission, you may not even understand what it means to "be on a mission." This is in spite of the fact that I have said - and probably everyone here has said at one time or another - that "this person" or "that person" is "on a mission."
Perhaps, I should have figured out that I was on a mission a long time ago. Over the past few years, a number of people have told me, in various ways, that I am, in fact, on a mission. This includes comments like - "Are you crazy ?" (and) "Chuck, you got way too much time on your hands " And, of course, one of my personal favorites, "why don't you go get a real job and earn some money?"
However, the most profound way that I was told that I was on a mission was by e-mail. I received this e-mail at least two or three years ago from a long-time friend named Shirley Carney who now lives in Texas. The first line of her note said it all. The first line said - "So , this is what God had in mind for you to do with your life."
In any case, this realization of "being on a mission" is new to me and I have not figured it all out yet. However, the one thing that I know must be true in order to qualify as being on a mission is that - you must believe in your mission.
And what I believe is that - "Education and knowledge" is the "gateway" that will lead to the solutions to all the problems that afflict black America.
To make it perfectly clear what I mean by this statement - "Education and knowledge" is the "gateway" that will lead to the solutions to all the problems that afflict black America - let me divide the statement into three parts.
The first part is "education and knowledge." Note that although I say "education and knowledge," Project 2019 is first and foremost about "knowledge." This is because - knowledge is power. It always has been - and it always will be. The issue is how do we obtain the knowledge that will give us power over our lives.
Two hundred years ago, you grew up on a farm and you obtained the knowledge of how to farm your land from your father. And you obtained the knowledge of how to churn butter and weave cloth from your mother. One hundred years ago, you might have obtained the knowledge of how to be a bricklayer from your father or how to be a pipe fitter from your uncle.
However, in the 21st century, the best way to obtain knowledge is through formal education. And not only is it the best way, in many cases it is a requirement. You may know how to fry french fries, but even McDonald's may not hire you without a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. You may know all there is to know about making widgets, but someone without as much experience may have a better chance of getting a bank loan to start a business to make those same widgets - if that person has a Master's degree in Engineering with a minor in Business Administration. Knowledge is power. However, in the 21st century, you often must have the credential to demonstrate that you have the knowledge.
"Knowledge - obtained through formal - and informal
education - is the "gateway" that will lead to the solutions to all
the problems that afflict black America.
The second part of this statement is - "the gateway that will lead to the solutions " Let me make it clear what everyone here already knows - that education is not the "be all to end all." Probably everyone in this room has at one time commented about a person who is "supposedly educated" but does not have the sense that they were born with. Well, what we are actually saying is that the person is not putting their education and knowledge to good use.
And if you think that a person who is "supposedly" well-educated is stupid - consider how stupid the person might have been if he or she did "not" have an education. Don't laugh - because we know these people. They are the babies who are raising babies in our black communities and the gang-bangers who eventually wind up in our prison systems. Ask yourself, when was the last time you heard of the arrest of a 22-year-old gang member - who has a degree in accounting from the University of Illinois? That, if nothing else, should tell us something about the necessity of education and knowledge in the black community.
The fact is that education has never made anyone "less smart." The fact is - the more knowledge you obtain, the greater the number of choices that you have to be successful. However, we must always bear in mind that education and knowledge will only get you to the gate - it is just as important what you do when you get to the gate.
"Education and knowledge" is the "gateway" that will lead to the solutions to all the problems that afflict black America.
Now, then, the third part of the statement is: "all the problems that afflict black America."
If you think about it, and a lot of people have, that is a heck of an assertion for anyone to make. And, in fact, that is the part of the statement that is most often challenged - and with very legitimate reasons. It is because, it is easy enough to substitute "education and knowledge" with any number of other very reasonable possibilities.
One could certainly argue that "economic empowerment" is the gateway that will lead to the solutions to all of the problems that afflict black America.
However, how many people do you know without education "or" knowledge who are economically successful. The facts are that black Americans are the least educated and least knowledgeable people in America and we have the least amount of economic power in America.
One can easily argue that "political empowerment" is the gateway that will lead to the solutions to all of the problems that afflict black America.
However, if you do not have the knowledge to understand the power of the vote in America - you will be fooled into believing that your "one little vote" does not matter. And the proof is in the pudding. Black Americans are the least educated and least knowledgeable people in America, and - surprise, surprise - black Americans have the worst voting record in America. And this is in "spite" of all the blood that was shed so that we would have the right to vote.
One could argue that eliminating teenage pregnancy, getting rid of gangs, getting rid of drugs, or fixing any number of other social issues is the gateway that will lead to the solutions to all of the problems that afflict black America.
My response is that knowledgeable teenagers do not want to ruin their lives by having babies out of wedlock. Knowledgeable young men and women do not join gangs - they go to college - and they join fraternities and sororities. And knowledgeable people do not let drugs control their lives. Knowledgeable people do not even let drugs into their lives.
One could argue that "black pride and black unity" is the gateway that will lead to the solutions to all of the problems that afflict black America.
My response is that if you do not have knowledge of your people - who you are - where you came from - if you do not know of the pain - the suffering - the blood - the sweat - and the tears that were shed to get us where we are today - how can you have any black pride? My response is that if you do not know that for the first 246 years that our ancestors were here in America - that it was illegal for more than 4 or 5 blacks to gather together without a white man present - then how can you appreciate - or even understand - the truism - "in unity, there is strength."
And finally, one could certainly argue that "spiritual enlightenment" is the gateway that will lead to the solutions to all of the problems that afflict black America.)
Now, needless to say, everyone can certainly stand to have more of God in their life. But let me add this. If you have knowledge of the atom - atoms that we are made of - the same atoms that the strongest steel is made of - the atoms that the most fragile flower is made of - atoms - so small that it takes a billion just to make up the head of a pin. If you have knowledge of the atom, how can you "not" appreciate the magnificence and glory of God's creation. If you have knowledge of the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy, which is just one of billions of galaxies in the universe, how can you "not" appreciate the power and the glory of God almighty.
One more thing. And, I know that there are at least 2 or 3 ministers in the audience tonight - and they can correct me if I am wrong. But, I have to believe that it must be so much easier to save the soul of a person who is knowledgeable - than it is to try to save the soul of an unrepentant fool.
What we need to understand is that - it is our lack of economic power, our lack of political power, our lack of black pride, our many social issues, and our need for more spiritual enlightenment that "are" the problems. And we need to understand that education and knowledge is the gateway that will lead to the solutions to these problems - and all the other problems that afflict black America.
Okay, enough about me and "my" mission. Now, let tell you something about you.
By virtue of you being here this evening, you are making black history. And not only that, - in fact - your names will be written and your faces will be recorded in the annals of black history.
Let me explain what I mean, and in the process, pass on some knowledge to you in case you do not truly understand what the Internet is all about. I am sure that most of you know that there is a Project 2019 web site - www project2019 com. Sometime over the next few days, I will add to one of the pages on the Project 2019 web sites, the pictures that are being taken here tonight. Your pictures. And I will also add a list of the names of everyone who is in attendance. In fact, for those of you who have attended previous Banquets and other Project 2019 events, your picture is undoubtedly already on the Project 2019 web site. (Let me know if this is a problem for anyone )
The reason why the Internet is fresh on my mind and I am giving you this information is because this past Tuesday was the 10th anniversary of the Internet. On April 22, 1993, a group of university students released some computer code designed to get information from various public networks. In the year prior to the release of this code, there were less than 100 publicly assessable web pages. In just 10 years the Internet has grown by 300,000%. ($1 - $300,000) Two-thirds of all adult Americans - that's about 137 million people - have Internet access. And, worldwide, about 600 million people have access to the Internet - that is, almost one out if every 10 people on earth has access to the Internet.
First of all, this to say that - if it is a good idea - a lot can happen in just 10 short years. And I have all the faith in the world that the same thing will be true about Project 2019.
Secondly, this is to say that by Monday or Tuesday of next week, 137 million Americans and 600 million people all around the world can sit down and type www project2019 com and see your picture and your name. In fact, any one of them can take one thin CD and download the entire Project 2019 web site and that CD will last for hundreds of years.
For those of you who regularly visit the Project 2019 web site, you may have seen that I have posted comments about Project 2019 from people in Canada, Jamaica, England, and as far away as South Africa. So, indeed, just by being here this evening, you "are" making black history and your names and your faces "will be" recorded in the annals of black history. Now, how history will judge your part in "creating" positive black history is entirely up to you and what you do when you leave here this evening.
Before I end my remarks, let me assure you of a couple of things. Regardless of where we go from here, ultimately millions of people will know about Project 2019. They will know about it because it will be a spectacular success - and, if they do not know about it because it was a spectacular success, they will know about it because it was a spectacular failure. In any case, ultimately, millions of people will know about Project 2019.
Secondly, let me assure you that, by the grace of God, the year 2019 will arrive - and it is not that far away.
Remember back in 1987, 1988 , fifteen, sixteen years ago? Ronald Reagan's presidency was ending, the first George Bush was being elected, and Bill Clinton was only four years away. Remember what was happening at work , what was happening in your life ? Doesn't seem that long ago, does it?
In 16 years, it will be the year 2019. In 16 years, we will either be agonizing over our 400 years of enslavement and oppression - or - we will be celebrating one of the greatest victories in our 400-year history in America.
The year 2019 is getting closer and closer. If we are ever going to pay the debt that we owe to our parents and grandparents and all past generations of black Americans - and - prepare the way for our children and grandchildren and all future generations of black Americans - the time is NOW.
Education and knowledge is the "gateway" that will lead to the solutions to all the problems that afflict black America.
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