Yesterday’s post featured Dr. Robert M. Franklin’s powerful commencement speech which encouraged graduates of an all male high school to be “renaissance men”. As noted yesterday, Franklin told the boys about the “five wells” of renaissance men: well-read, well-spoken, well-traveled, well-dressed, and well-balanced. Today GCP concludes its coverage of this inspirational speech.

Dr. Franklin encouraged the high school graduates to strive to be “renaissance men with social consciousness and global perspective”. He explained:

“[I]t’s not simply functioning as a renaissance man that is important or that matters most. You must also have a social conscience. Part of the beauty of Martin Luther King’s life, and Paul Robeson, and Dorothy Day and so many we regard as renaissance leaders, is that they voluntarily identified with the suffering, the challenges, the confusion, the ignorance and the vulnerability of the masses and they did their best to transform their condition. So, bring your sense of moral purpose, a sense of what is good and right and noble to every enterprise that you join. Even in the college dormitory you will occupy. Remember that you are renaissance men with a social conscience. Do not be pressured to conform to do things that you know are wrong.” Franklin cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as a classic must-read treatise which provides guidance on developing a social consciousness. He noted: “[a] couple of memorable lines from his Letter from Birmingham Jail are “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, but another line that is alluded to in the letter but then elaborated in another speech said the following, “The saving of our world from pending doom will come not from the actions of a conforming majority but from the creative maladjustment of a transformed minority. This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists.”

In order to be a valuable part of that dedicated circle, Franklin posited, one must develop and maintain a global perspective. To help the boys understand just how interdependent the world’s people are, and how important it is to adapt a world view, he cited a study found on the internet called “The Village of 100”, which imagined the world population shrinking to just 100 people with all current demographic ratios remaining constant. This, says Franklin, is what this study shows that our Village of 100 would look like:

“There would be
60 Asians,
12 Europeans,
16 from the Western Hemisphere (that is 9 from Latin America and Caribbean; 5 from North America),
13 Africans.
51 would be female, 48 would be male;
73 would be non-white, 27 white;
67 would non-Christians, 33 Christians,
92 heterosexual, 8 homosexual,
5 would possess 23% of the entire world’s wealth and all 5 would be from the United States;
33 would live in sub-standard housing,
18 would be unable to read,
40 would be malnourished,
1 would be near death, 1 would be near birth; 2, yes only 2, would have a college education, and 96 would not be able to read this message, because only 4 would have a computer.

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for compassion and understanding becomes compelling and clear.”

Renaissance men with social consciousness and global perspective. Something for our boys to aim for.

Dr. Franklin is currently on sabbatical leave from Morehouse and is spending 2013 conducting comparative research about what contributes to the flourishing of boys and young men of color around the world. He plans to include visits to Brazil, India, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand in this study. GCP looks forward to hearing and reporting on his progress.

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Couldn’t post today without mentioning the recent Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. While we are heartened to see that the Court endorsed the benefits of student-body diversity in colleges and universities and allowed the continued use of race-conscious admissions policies in yesterday’s Fisher v. University of Texas decision, we are deeply disappointed with the Court’s decision to strike down a critical part of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.

For excellent analysis of these opinions and critical next steps, please go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website, found here.