The Banneker High School Leadership Lecture Series was recently held as the second installment of our signature community event. The series, which began in 2016, was launched as an effort to supplement the normal course of study that Banneker students receive from their exposure to the state of Georgia’s core academic curriculum.
Banneker’s leadership lecture series also attempts to respond to the persistent question that teachers and school leaders constantly grapple with, which is, “What is the true goal of education?” We have arrived at the conclusion that education professionals can no longer afford to be singularly focused on preparing young people for college and career. The result of our contributions to students’ development must not be limited to superior performance on state examinations and such. There must be a loftier goal, a more righteous endeavor – and that work, we believe, is about preparing young people to lead lives of leadership and service. The mechanics of how to facilitate such a goal, however, are not easily executed during a traditional school-day. This is why our lecture series is so incredibly important.
Our goals for this annual event are straightforward. They are to 1) Expose students to highly regarded public intellectuals and thought leaders, and 2) To facilitate meaningful dialogue about topics of interest that will enhance the collective knowledge and awareness of our school community.
For the series’ inaugural event in 2016, we welcomed Ambassador Andrew Young. Ambassador Young established a high bar for the quality of featured speakers that students and other guests should expect going forward. This year, we welcomed Mr. Bakari Sellers and Rev. Raphael Warnock as capable stewards of the tradition set in motion by Ambassador Young.
Mr. Sellers, a lawyer and former South Carolina State Representative is best known as one of CNN’s most capable political commentators — appearing regularly on news shows including Anderson Cooper 360° and The Lead with Jake Tapper. Equally accomplished, Rev. Raphael Warnock is the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church — the home church of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Rev. Warnock is one of the most influential theologians and scholars in the country and is often involved in civil and human rights issues in his home state of Georgia and abroad.
Speaking on the theme, “Inspiring a New Generation of Leaders for Social Change,” Mr. Sellers and Rev. Warnock offered perspective about how and why young people should prepare themselves to address modern problems that they anticipate will “reinscribe” themselves in the future. Mr. Sellers shared memories of his father, a former SNCC leader during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, having served as a role model for his personal leadership journey, while Rev. Warnock advised students to read more, to take their studies seriously, and to be aware that the challenges of war and poverty will always be with us.
I am convinced that whatever exposure young people have to individuals who can help them become more socially conscious, more civically engaged, and more inspired to lead is an appropriate complement to the academic preparation that schools work so hard to provide. This is why my hope and expectation for the Banneker High School Leadership Lecture Series will only heighten in years to come; that it will become embedded into the psyche of our students (as it has been for me) that “all learnin’, ain’t book learnin’, but all learnin’ is good”.