I grew up hearing the slogan, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” not knowing the power behind the words.
I knew it was the catch phrase for the United Negro College Fund. Most of the time when I was growing up, it meant Lou Rawls would headline an all-star fundraising telethon for UNCF, much like Jerry Lewis did for muscular dystrophy around Labor Day.
So now, these many years later, I have a much better appreciation for what that slogan and those raised funds mean.
I have decided that this year, I am going to focus more attention on educational issues because it is one of the most important issues of our time.
Now, given the fractious political climate at home and world-changing events going on abroad, one would think there are more pressing issues of concern. But these times are precisely why we must all focus on education, now more than ever.
Today’s world requires more critical and innovating thinking. Much of the ruckus going on these days starts with disinformation, or with people who won’t take the time to learn the facts. Such folks base decisions on raw emotion and preconceived notions rather than the truth of a situation.
Too much of what passes for debate in our country is really intellectual laziness and an unwillingness to take a closer look at our own personal motivations. And we’re all suffering because of it.
What does all of this have to do with the UNCF?
I see education as a means of transmitting our collective knowledgebase – information that helps us understand our world and our place in it – from past generations to the newest generation. Education enables younger minds to build on the foundation their elders laid. Young and old together can use their collective power to solve problems and make new discoveries that improve our lives and the condition of humanity.
To me, it’s very important that the Black community in particular get back to the fundamentals of what makes every community strong – knowledge and the wisdom to use it constructively.
If too many of our young people fail to take school seriously because of some ghetto notion that being academically smart is somehow bad – or, if we fail to provide our youth with the proper tools that make them well educated in our increasingly competitive global marketplace – then we are all in BIG trouble.
The folks who are heading up the UNCF fundraising gala understand this.
From a business perspective, a well-educated workforce is essential for companies to compete in our high-tech, global economy, says Glyn Agnew of AT&T Alabama, who is chairman of the 2011 Birmingham UNCF gala.
“The UNCF motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” has never more true. And for Alabama to remain competitive, we cannot afford to waste a single mind,” says Agnew, a longtime UNCF supporter. “I truly believe that investing in the education of our youth is the single most important thing we can do to help our communities grow and prosper. Therefore, it is important for everyone to realize that a gift to UNCF is an investment in our youth, communities, businesses and ourselves, and the returns are great.”
Majella Chube Hamilton, who is also leading UNCF’s fundraising efforts with her husband Herschell, says a quality education is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children and young adults.
“An educated mind has proven to be the greatest equalizer in helping a person realize his or her dreams and aspirations. I firmly believe education is deeply intertwined with economic empowerment,” she says.
Hamilton says UNCF’s proven scholarship program allows the larger community to collectively pool its resources to ensure an open path to success for tomorrow’s leaders. Last year, more than 300 students in Alabama alone benefited from UNCF funding. She is now leading a diverse team of business and community leaders who will help UNCF Alabama meet or exceed its $300,000 goal this year.
“Many minority students in college meet or exceed their academic requirements, but in order to complete their degrees, some need financial assistance along the way. Most often, these students are leaders on their college campuses, working hard in their studies while holding down a part-time job, and helping to take care of their families,” she says.
The Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that the UNCF funds have a particular responsibility to educate the next generation of future leaders, whose decisions and actions will determine how the Black community moves forward. These leaders’ work, then, will also contribute to the course of the broader community, even the world.
We truly can’t afford to waste their minds on anything less than the best education possible.
Gala At A Glance
The UNCF Birmingham MASKED Gala is one of UNCF’s signature fund-raising events and one of greater Birmingham’s premiere social occasions. “M.A.S.K.E.D.” stands for “Mankind Assisting Students Kindle Educational Dreams.” Hosted by sponsors from local corporations, businesses, civic groups and the faith community, its purpose is to involve those who support the five UNCF-member colleges and universities located in the state of Alabama and to encourage the participation of volunteers, public officials and members of the general public who believe in the UNCF mission of providing college access and opportunity to minority youth.
- When: Saturday, February 26, 2011
- Where: Sheraton Birmingham Hotel
- Time: 6:30 p.m. VIP Reception
- 7:00 p.m. Elegant Dining and Entertainment
- Awards Presentation
- Parade of Masks
“I Am the Face Behind the Mask”
- 8:30 p.m. Dancing
- Live Entertainment
- Goal: $300,000
- Attire: A Black-Tie Affair
- Entertainment: Alabama Entertainers, HBCU Students
- National Entertainment: Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
- Individual Ticket Costs: $125 per person
For tickets and more information, please contact the Birmingham UNCF office at 205-322-8623