As a member or supporter of the Silverback Society, you should be very proud of yourself. I was in Atlanta on the day of the President's speech at Morehouse, but not to see or hear President Obama, and for any of us in the SDilverback Society his commentary would have been redundant. But I have included this link so that you can read two excerpts that Silverback D'Juan Hernandrz shared with me. Please click here to read and enjoy them as I have.
The power of influencing young people was the reason for my trip to Atlanta. Not many people know that I turned down a free ride to Morehouse College after my junior year in high school, a decision I have never regretted since my reason was to come back home to continue courting the girl who is still my wife and lover today. The offer came after a Summer pre college program at Morehouse in which I did pretty well.
During that program, over the holiday break, a fellow participant, Edwin Thompson, Jr. took me home, a militant, cigarette smoking, sixteen year old who steered his own ship after having done the man's work of restoring his family's home after hurricaine Betsy with his own hands and the help of his younger brother. As my mother said of the time, "Good thing he was a good child, cause he did waht he thought he should do, not what he was told."
Well, Ernestine and Edwin Thompson Sr. just embraced this morally grounded but wild and free spirited young man with full acceptance and no judgement...after verifying with my mother that she knew about and accepted my cigarette smoking, even though their son had no such leeway. They enjoyed my mind and opinions about almost everything. I believe, in a certain way, I was entertaining to these two seasoned educators. There was nothing I could do or say that would surprise or shock them because they had dealth with thousands of young people.
One thing that I really appreciated was that even my decision to return home to stay connected to my then "childhood" sweetheart was not judged or scorned by this couple who themselves had become a couple very early in life. My wife and I have stayed connected to them over these many years.
That open armed acceptance of young people must have inspired me because that is our exact approach in the Silverback Society mentoring movement. We don't judge, pick, exclude or chastize, we accept every boy in the eighth grade at the school and show and teach him with our curriculum and by our example, no punishment or scolding, just questions.
That's how the Thompsons treated me. When they thought my ideas were not realistic or productive they engaed me with questions which made me consider some realities that perhaps I hadn't considered or encountered in my few years on the planet. So it is not me who designed this approach to helping our boys engage their futures. I had masterful teachers, if but for a Summer. I know from personal experience that the impact of a powerful influence can be life long.
Since my time in that Summer program, the Thompsons have invested themselves in countless young people and education institutions. In the Seventies, Dr. Thompson was tasked by the legendary Dr. Benjamin E. Mays to found a an institution to prepare young people for expanding jobs and opportunities in Atlanta, and In 1974 he became the the founding President of what is now Atlanta Metropolitan State College. Our trip to Alanta was to celebrate with him and his family, the honor of having the newly expanded and enhanced Student Activity Center named after him.