Former U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums [D-Calif.] woke up in the wee hours of the morning on Friday wondering what he would tell a young audience at McKinley Technology High School in Northeast later that day about his career and life experiences.
On the other side of town, Reggie Weaver, former president of the National Education Association, would tell students at Roosevelt Senior High School in Northwest, that as a young boy in rural Illinois, he never gave much thought to setting or achieving goals. But he knew that he would go to college.
"That's just the way it was," said Weaver, 73. "My mother said I was going to college and that was that."
Dellums and Weaver joined a contingent of accomplished African-American leaders who visited schools located throughout the country on Friday, Sept. 28, to talk about their journeys along the highway to success and how their young listeners could follow in their footsteps during the third annual HistoryMakers program.
While Dellums, a 13-term congressman, explained to students that he deliberately lied to his mother about securing a full college scholarship and turning his life around in his rough-and-tumble neighborhood in Oakland, Weaver talked about the path that led him to advocacy in public education.
"When I was growing up, I didn't exactly have goals, but I knew I wanted to do things," Weaver told his audience. "However, in going to college I took advantage of opportunities that came my way and in doing so, it took a lot of hard work and treating people right."
Both Dellums and Weaver have earned their place in history. That's why they're considered HistoryMakers and asked to participate in the national Chicago-based program, founded in 2009 by Julieanna Richardson. The annual back-to-school event, sends approximately 500 distinguished African-American leaders from the ranks of politics, education, entertainment and business into schools to inspire students to excel in their studies. About 250 schools – including 30 in the District – participated in the program this year.
Another HistoryMaker, Howard University music professor Raymond Jackson, also a noted classical pianist and lecturer, talked to students at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Northeast about the importance of music in education and being open to various genres.
"Music represents the highest form of art. It's a great model of perfection and balance," Jackson said. He encouraged students to consider writing classical music.
The music teacher enjoyed the day.
"It was a very fruitful visit," said Jackson, who considers Friendship to be one of the finest schools in the District. "The students were receptive and I was pleased to have had the opportunity to increase their thoughts about music."