The theme for Freedom Fund Banquet of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on October 31st held in Rochester, MN was Bold Dreams, Big Victories. I had gotten the opportunity and the honor to be one of the attendees that day. I had attended the event with several students from the Mayo Graduate School as well as currently enrolled and former students in the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) in which I am enrolled. Our Program Director Dennis Mays, Ph.D. was present, as well as Director Eddie L. Green, MD., who was to speak later on in the evening. Beside the Mayo Graduate School, Mayo Clinic was represented by several other doctors and administrators.
I have never been to such a serious multi-racial event before even when I was active in several student organizations back in college. It was an event that included people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as an African immigrant, I didn’t feel out of place. There were several eloquent speakers at the banquet with different speeches. The mission of NAACP focused on equality, fairness, education, understanding and appreciation of differences. I could comment on all of them equally. However, who I want to mention are the speakers with whom I felt I was being influenced and moved.
One of the speeches that drove the message vividly was given by Dr. Eddie Green. He made a note of how important education is for everyone. Then, he proceeded to describe the Seven Cs, their definitions and how important they are to succeed in life. The Seven Cs are: courage, challenge, compassion, community, culture, commitment, and character. Dr. Green provided the Webster’s definition of each of those words and some of the people that showed those characteristics in our history. For courage, he mentioned our Country, the US built on principles, Pastor King, Rosa Parks, and the Mayo brothers who in 1912 declared that they will treat all patients equally regardless of their race or background at the Mayo Clinic. For challenge, one of his examples was improvements to the system. For compassion, he defined the word, and quoted Dr. Mayo on the reward of treating patients is the satisfaction received when they were well. The next word was community, defined as interactions of people in the same location benefiting from each other. Next, culture defined as the human knowledge passed down through generations. He went on to saying that we needed to develop culture sensitivity. The next C was commitment, committing to a goal is necessary for success. The final C was character, where it is the qualities that make an individual. He closed his speech by saying, in other words, that to commit to challenge the problems in the community on a daily basis, not once in a while, is what’s needed to progress into a better community. Dr. Green’s eloquent speech was informational as well as meaningful.
The following person on the podium after Dr. Green was Dr. Mathew McCullough, who was introducing the key note speaker, Mr. Carl B. Mack, the Executive Director of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Dr. McCullough said he wasn’t going to introduce Mr. Mack telling of his accomplishments, of which he mentioned a few, but he will introduce the man. Mr. Mack, who cares about the education of the younger generations, was a big influence in his life. Mr. Mack had helped him to believe more in himself. That he was able to achieve anything if he put his mind to it. Dr. McCullough consequently had great respect for Mr. Mack as his mentor and role model. As a result of that relationship, Dr. McCullough was introducing Mr. Mack to us at the banquet.
The introduction had a profound effect on Mr. Mack. He spoke of a person that had major influence on him when he was younger by challenging him to do more. How he was influenced by this person to seek education and knowledge. He, as a result of that influence, became a successful person. He had to struggle to overcome the misguided education he received in his elementary, middle, and high school years when he got to college, but he did overcome. Because of what that person had such an effect on Mr. Mack, he had goal to influence someone as much as he had been by his role model. He was sure he achieved that with Dr. McCullough. He was proud and exhilarated, as the audience was able to witness, to see the success of one of his students rival his success.
Then Mr. Mack spoke about the theme for the banquet, Bold Dreams, Big Victories. That is what we need to achieve victories, is to be bold. Mr. Mack went on to speak about how he had to fight through a system that did not teach young people about their history. A misguided system that didn’t teach about the first black man to graduate college in the US; also it didn’t teach about pioneering black men in anything. The system did not inspire the youngsters. “…. Real education inspires people to live…” said Mr. Mack.
He went on to introduce the society where he is the Executive Director. The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is a student organization. They are one of the largest student organizations in the country. They have financial resources of upwards of $9 million. They are involved in many different youth educational programs in the NSBE’s Pre-college Initiative Program. One of those programs Mr. Mack has been involved in creating is Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK). There children got to learn about engineering in hands on atmosphere. They learned about physical and mechanical laws via observing them in practice. One of his favorite instances in the program was when a 4th grader was explaining her experiment in absolute scientific description. When he asked her what she meant by hypothesis, she defined the word for him perfectly.
Mr. Mack mentioned the situation that Rochester was having with the superintendent. He said that the superintendent is working to improve the education in Rochester. Unless we are there with him in the office working with him, then he falls short, we should not be criticizing his work. He used the catch phrase “if y’ain’t in the game, y’can’t complain” to drive that message home by having all present repeat it with him a few times.
Mr. Mack’s speech was inspirational in many ways. It showed that there are people, black students, who are interested in and working on helping younger black students succeed and go beyond what they ever thought they could achieve before. He was very vivid in his descriptions. His speech showed his passion for the advancement of people of all races; by giving the underprivileged enough help, they are able to compete within the mainstream scientific world. Mr. Mack mesmerized the audience with his passion, humor, eloquence, character, and with his drive towards a country with understanding, tolerance, and no discrimination.
Written by Abe Abdalla