Donovan Livingston, we presume? That’s a name “we will hear again and again. He is a game changer,” says Michelle Flowers, one among the thousands commenting on the Harvard graduate’s speech that is currently going viral. Every student, teacher and parent – heck, pretty much everyone in the world – needs to hear his uplifting and inspiring words.
For his commencement speech at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on May 25, Donovan Livingston chose to perform a poignant spoken-word poem he entitled “Lift Off” to talk about education — in history, what it means to him as an African-American man, and what likely course educators should take for the future.
Here are 10 of the most powerful and compelling lines from his speech. He starts with a quote by Horace Mann from the 1800s that talks about education being an equalizer.
On America’s history of race relations:
For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.
2. On diversity and inclusion:
How many times must we be made to feel like quotas –
Like tokens in coined phrases?
3. On being unstoppable:
My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.
So my body, like the mind
Cannot be contained.
4. On those looking to transform the world:
As educators, rather than raising your voices
Over the rustling of our chains,
Take them off. Un-cuff us.
5. On every human being’s latent potential:
At the core, none of us were meant to be common.
We were born to be comets,
Darting across space and time –
Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.
6. On what real change looks like:
A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened here –
An indelible impact that shook up the world.
7. On injustice in the education system against children:
Injustice is telling them education is the key
While you continue to change the locks.
8. On what the world really needs from every person:
So wake up – wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
9. On accepting and propagating change:
I’ve been a Black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
10. On the future:
No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.