An evening with Stephen A. Smith

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Sports journalist Stephen A. Smith – known for his outspoken, forward nature – didn’t hold anything back when addressing the large crowd that came to hear him speak at the University of Memphis Michael D. Rose Theater on Feb. 11.

From topics such as value and success to race, Smith offered wisdom and commentary in his characteristic blunt, unapologetic manner. Among the topics that he took on was being prepared for and understanding how the world works.

“Are you ready for what waits? The world is always ready. It has no compassion, it will ignore you…. unless you understand the challenges that await,” said Smith.

“Do you know the difference between being popular and valuable? Popularity means being well known; being valuable means you’ve been targeted as an individual who can make money for someone else. …Everything has to do with dollars and cents. …You have to understand that the world is a business…”

Smith emphasized the keys to success and the importance of personal accountability.

“Opportunities are what you make them. The opportunities…are for you, if you’re willing to work. … I’m the best because I know I’m not. I haven’t arrived; I’m just getting started. …I’m mission-minded ….I don’t want to be just seen or heard, I want to be both because what I say will resonate…”

Tenacity, he said, is what’s inside of you and what you grow to want. Find what you’re interested in and you’ll find energy and tenacity you never knew you had.

“I like doing what needs to be done, that’s what winners do. Whatever it takes to be the best, that’s what you should be doing,” said Smith. “The time for slippage has come to an end. Get on your game.”

Smith took head on issues such as race and disenfranchisement.

“One time I rocked the very fabric of the political industry when I made a statement. …I didn’t mean it in a literal sense; I was trying to make a point. I said, ‘If you are a member of the black community, you want me to tell you how to rock the foundation of this nation? For one election, every black person should vote Republican.’

“I’m not talking politics, I’m talking disenfranchisement. …I’m talking black folks making themselves relevant again!”

Smith said that since President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, engineered the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 Republicans have not received a huge percentage of the African-American vote, even though a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats pushed the legislation. (Southern Democrats, most of whom opposed civil rights legislation, and Democrats from outside the South who tended to back it, split the Democratic Party in the 1960s.)

“Since 1964, we spent our time telling one party to kiss off. As a result, we tell the other party, ‘You have our vote.’ So, no one has to work for us. One party knows they got you, the other party knows they don’t. Nobody’s working for you, and then you wonder why you can’t get what you want. I’m not talking politics; I’m talking intelligence.

“You go to buy a car, you don’t go to one dealership, you go to a couple. …We do that with everything else, but we forget it with the most important elements that affect our lives. There’s an absence of common sense with that, because you’re not making somebody work for you…”

Beneath his no-nonsense demeanor, Smith displayed a passion to make a difference by any means necessary.

“I love everybody, but I especially love my people. I have a chance to make a difference, and I’m going to do it every chance I get.”

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