Award-winning journalist Roland S. Martin visited Dallas ISD’s Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Florence on Wednesday, April 18, to motivate students to be more intentional with their time and effort and make positive choices now.
“Everything you are going through, every single day on this campus – your teachers – they are trying to position you for a better life than the one you have now,” Martin said. “It matters what we do today.”
He drove the point home by using a poignant example in his life.
When he was a junior in high school, he took the initiative to ask several questions of a guest speaker on career day. Because he was the only one in his class to do so, he had the opportunity to walk the speaker to the next class, and he talked with the man further. The guest was George Strake, a Houston oilman, former Texas secretary of state and former chairman of the Texas Republican Party.
A few years later, while attending Texas A&M University, Martin had founded a chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. The group wanted to attend the national conference in New York City, but didn’t have the money to go. After seeking funding from more than 30 charitable foundations, just one answered with a check for $1,000 – from Strake. At the conference, Martin won a seat on the national organization’s board of directors, which boosted his professional networking opportunities.
Martin said that simply asking questions in that high school class shaped his career.
“Nearly every job I have had in my career has been a result of the individuals I have met through the National Association of Black Journalists,” he said. “Imagine if none of that had happened. My career would have looked completely different – if I sat in class as an 11th-grader and said nothing.”
Martin’s career ahas had him interviewing the top newsmakers, including U.S. presidents, top athletes and entertainers. Notably, he is currently the host and managing editor of TV One’s “News One Now,” which stakes a claim as the first daily morning news show to focus on the news of the day from an explicitly African American perspective.
Everything the students do today sets them up for the following years. “When I was your age I was not joking around,” he said.
Martin said that the people we choose as our friends make a difference in our lives, either positively or negatively. He warned students that the wrong kind of friends can ruin your own life. “Don’t get caught in somebody else’s mess,” he said. “All it takes if for one thing to happen in your life, and everything goes out the window.”
He told the students, from that moment on, students should know better.
“You can’t ever say, ‘I wish somebody would have told me that when I was younger,’” he said. “Not a single one of you can say that ever again.”
As students of a leadership academy, Martin said, the students are being taught how to lead. “Only you can decide if you want to lead or not,” he said. “If you listen, it could change your entire future; if you don’t listen, it could change your entire future.”
The assembly kicked off with a showcase of the school’s talent, including presentation of the colors by the school’s Leadership Cadet Corps and performances from the Gold Crew Dance Company, Debate Club, Advanced Guitar and Symphonic Band. Student Damien Charles, who will attend Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts next year, presented a dramatic monologue and a motivational speech.
Martin’s visit was made possible in part by UNT-Dallas. He was invited to the school by UNT-Dallas Distinguished Leader-In-Residence Michael Williams, who is a former Texas Commissioner of Education.