On January 19, and throughout the month of February, millions of Americans will be celebrating African American heritage with Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month. For me, this is a chance to look back at remarkable history, from the days of slavery to civil rights and remember the great leaders – Fredrick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels and Martin Luther King Jr. – all of who fought against racial inequality and inspired all African Americans to strive for equality through strength, education and excellence. For Martin Luther King Jr., education was a great equalizer for all. As a young college student, King wrote that, “Education must enable a man…to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.” To celebrate Black History Month this year, I encourage all Americans, all races alike, to think about the role that education plays in their life and the power it has to enable us and help us achieve even our wildest dreams.
As Director of Academic Affairs for the University of Phoenix, I work to uphold the value of education and the quest for knowledge everyday. By crafting programs that cater to the needs of working adults, this university provides educational opportunities to individuals who might not have had the chance otherwise. By rethinking the classic school schedule, University of Phoenix students are able to have a full time job and obtain an undergraduate, graduate or even doctoral degree. Knowledge and education is the cornerstone of American society. Through education we can connect to one another and avoid the perils of ignorance the late Martin Luther King, Jr. warned against.
One of our more famous students, Shaquille O’Neal, portrays a prime example of maintaining a quest for knowledge. After three years of playing basketball in college, Shaquille was drafted into the NBA. He made a promise to his mother (who greatly instilled the need for education upon her son) that he would return to college and finish his degree. He upheld that promise in 2000. Then in 2005, he graduated from the University of Phoenix with a master’s degree in Business Administration. Even though Shaquille has continuously had great success in his career in basketball, he has remained grounded and held tight to his desire for education. He hopes one day to complete his doctoral degree in psychology or criminology and actively participates as a reserve police officer.
The thirst for knowledge lives within all human beings and has always been a driving force throughout the history of the world. Luckily, with advances in technology, we live in a world in which information is uncovered and decoded at the speed of light, and available at all of our fingertips.
There is a wealth of information for any woman, man, or child to soak up, no matter what area of study interests you. Whether you find yourself curious about the field of criminal justice, social and behavioral sciences, business, education or anything else, there is the opportunity to become educated and well versed in the subject; and becoming educated about any area of expertise has the ability to truly transform any person’s life.
The dream of education should not be limited to any American. Fredrick Douglas, one of the foremost abolitionists of his time, faced incredible adversity and yet became the first person to inspire a week, then month, in honor of Black History. He was once quoted as saying, “Without struggle, there is no progress.” This is true, not only for our African American forefathers, but of every American today. Education may not be the easiest thing to obtain in your life, but it has the ability to empower all individuals, no matter your race, gender, creed and differences. This Black History Month, reevaluate the importance that educations holds not only in your life, but in the lives of your children and those that you care for; imagine the possibilities it may bring.