Tuesday, February 23, 2016

[334] Smith tells MTSU audience Black History Month more about the future than past

MURFREESBORO — MTSU’s Black History Month keynote speaker encouraged his audience to build on the progress of their predecessors instead of only looking back at those accomplishments.

In an address before a standing-room-only audience at MTSU’s Student Union Feb. 17, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith said Black History Month “should be about reminding you of what your obligation is, not just reminiscing about what theirs was and how they lived up to it.”

Noting the opportunity the students have in being able to pursue a college education, the popular, outspoken panelist of “ESPN First Take” on ESPN 2 urged them to disassociate with people in their lives who bring them down and prevent them from achieving their goals.

In a moment targeting young men in particular, Smith asserted that women students are passing them by because they do the hard work necessary to succeed in the classroom and graduate. He also reminded men that women won’t stay around unsuccessful men for very long.

On the subject of racism in society, Smith said, while it’s important to stand up against racism when it occurs, “everything ain’t the white man’s fault.”

His “real world” advice also included a glimpse at what students can expect when they enter the job market.

“Corporate America doesn’t give a damn about you,” said Smith. “It does not care about your feelings. It wants productivity, and whoever doesn’t produce is going to be pushed out and the way is going to be paved for somebody else to step into your shoes who can do the job.”

When asked about the constraints of being a blunt, forthright commentator working for ESPN, which is owned by the Disney corporate empire, Smith said, “Although that vexes me sometimes, I always say that I would rather work for someone with standards than someone looking for them.”

On “First Take,” Smith exchanges verbal blows with former Dallas Morning News and Dallas Times Herald sports writer Skip Bayless on various sports issues of the day. In addition, Smith writes regularly for EPSNLA.com and ESPNNY.com.

In addition heaping praise on Bayless for bringing him to the show, the journalist cited a number of mentors and colleagues in his career who helped him achieve his current level of success, emphasizing that no one progresses without help from others.

“History says it’s your time, and history mandates that you handle your business the way that you’re supposed to,” said Smith. “Your ancestors didn’t go through all they went through for you to blow it.”

Entrepreneurship major James English, a senior from Columbia, Tennessee, said he appreciated Smith’s honesty.

“I think he was very knowledgeable and shared a lot of good information,” said English. “I think that the perspective that he gave was not what people expected, but what people needed.”

Smith’s appearance at MTSU was sponsored by the Black History Month Committee, the Distinguished Lecture Committee, the College of Media and Entertainment, the Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity, the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance and the MTSU Collegiate Chapter of the NAACP.

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