A world-renowned journalist spoke to Jarvis Christian College students on Tuesday on the importance of rising above discouragement and not defining themselves based on other people's standards or perceptions.
George E. Curry, editor and chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service delivered the convocation speech as part of the college's 2013 Founders and Homec-oming festivities.
Curry has worked as a reporter for Sports Illustrated, the St. Louis Dispatch and as a Washington correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He was the editor in chief of Emerge magazine, which ran stories on issues affecting the African American community.
Curry also has written three books. "You are today the thoughts of yesterday have brought you, and you will be tomorrow the thoughts of today take you," he said to an audience in the Smith-Howard Chapel on the JCC campus in Hawkins.
Curry said he grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and graduated from a segregated high school. He said he was denied a job at his hometown newspaper because of the color of his skin. But he did not allow it to discourage him.
"My first job was at Sports Illustrated magazine as a reporter ..." he said "I could get a job at the largest sports magazine in the world and could not get a job at my hometown newspaper. I should send them a thank you note, see, because what some people perceive as bad can turn out to be good."
Curry said if he allowed himself to be discouraged, he wouldn't have traveled the world, covered political campaigns, and even met Pope John Paul II.
"It's about attitude," he said. "It's about dreaming about what you want to be in life It's about not letting anybody discourage you. It's about making decisions now that are going to affect the rest of your life, because decisions and choices have consequences."
Siblings with the same families, communities and opportunities can take entirely different paths, leading one to success and another to jail. He said the only difference is the choices made.
"There will be some people who will try to discourage you, and they could be in your own family, but you and nobody else (can define) who you are, and you need to learn your history and know who you are," he said.
Curry said part of knowing your history involves speaking to others with respect, and not degrading women. He mentioned Lil Wayne's recent lyrics on a track titled "Karate Chop," that were particularly distasteful. The lyrics inappropriately referenced Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was beaten, shot and thrown in a river in 1955 for whistling at a white woman.
"Lil Wayne thinks this is something to joke about," Curry said.
The respect of language applied to the use of racial slurs and degrading terms for women that are prominent in some rap music, he said. Curry said anything to call a woman should go through the "mother test," and if someone could call their mother that name without being slapped, then it was probably alright to call others it too.
Curry said to give respect, but not to allow others' words to define who they become. He said many successful people were told they wouldn't; amount to anything and went on to become successful.
"See, somewhere somebody is going to say no to you, and the question is not if you get knocked down -- the question is, are you going to get up?" he said.
George E. Curry, editor and chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (Courtesy)