The civil rights crusaders that author and scholar Dr. Lea Williams profiled in her book "Servants of the People: The 1960s Legacy of African American Leadership" all had very different leadership styles and roles, but their experiences offer valuable lessons to future leaders, Dr. Williams said at Palm Beach Atlantic University last week.
|Dr. Lea Williams speaks in Palm Beach Atlantic University's DeSantis Family Chapel.|
In a talk on “Race, Gender and Leadership,” Dr. Williams, the associate vice chancellor for academic affairs/institutional planning, assessment and research at North Carolina A&T State University, shared insights on the historic figures she studied, including labor union activist A. Philip Randolph, Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, among others.
One of the traits that all of these leaders shared is that they had a mentor at an early age, Dr. Williams said. “They learned from those role models and mentors how to give back,” she said.
Also, many of them came into their leadership positions later in life, she said. “Everything doesn’t happen in your 20s and 30s. Sometimes you’ve got to have some life experiences that lead you to other things,” she said, adding that Hamer was in her 40s when she became involved in the voting rights movement.
They all shared a strong sense of purpose, and they had deep convictions about the causes for which they advocated, she said.
“Discovering how to embrace your life’s purpose and passion is truly important,” she said. “You need to listen to that inner voice that may be speaking to you and pointing you in a particular direction.”
Additionally, a lack of knowledge or resources is no reason to give up, Dr. Williams said. “If it’s something you’re very passionate about, you will learn what you need to learn” in order to accomplish it, she said.
Other lessons that can be gleaned from these leaders are that difficult battles require steadfastness, and sometimes it’s helpful to assemble diverse groups of people to help further a cause, Dr. Williams said.
Additionally, “each one of these men and women found that their faith really sustained their hopes in uncertain times,” she said.
|Tim and Juanita McGraw present the Jerms McGraw Second Chance Scholarship to Stefanie Tucker, a student in the MacArthur School of Leadership.|
Dr. Williams spoke at PBA as part of the University’s annual MacArthur School of Leadership Speaker Series. Among those in the audience were many of the MacArthur School’s adult students. The event also was live streamed to students at PBA’s Orlando campus.
“As nontraditional students, you have many challenges, you have obstacles that you’ve overcome” in pursuit of a degree, Dr. Williams said.
During the event, the PBA Alumni Association presented the MacArthur School of Leadership Alumna Award to Ivette Hernandez Miranda, a 1997 graduate who now serves as associate administrator and interim chief human resources officer for Tenet Health Systems.
Also, the first-ever Jerms McGraw Second Chance Scholarship was presented to Stefanie Tucker of North Palm Beach, a single mother who is working toward a bachelor’s degree in organizational management.
The scholarship was created in memory of U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Jeremiah McGraw. Known by his nickname “Jerms,” Lt. McGraw was a student in the MacArthur School of Leadership while serving as a Marine reservist, part of the 4th ANGLICO unit in West Palm Beach.
Lt. McGraw died on Sept. 10, 2009, during a training exercise in Central Florida while serving his country. He was 22. Prior to his death, Lt. McGraw earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from PBA.
Lt. McGraw’s parents, Tim and Juanita, presented Tucker with the scholarship. “We see this as an opportunity to share the gospel,” Tim McGraw said. “That’s what God has for us to do.”