This Harvard Graduate’s Speech is Going Viral. 10 Best Lines

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.

Lift off.

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