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Roland Martin with Student (in)

Roland Martin Issues Life Challenge: "What are you prepared to do?"

Renowned journalist and political pundit Roland Martin changed the script of the Shaw University Homecoming Founder’s Day Observance, asking the band to depart from its solemn convocation tunes to satisfy his want of traditional to HBCU band flare.

They obliged. So did the audience of Shaw’s family of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters. And Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium burst alive.

“Mr. Roland Martin took the solemn out of convocation,” said Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, Shaw’s 17th  president. “The energy he evoked is exactly what we need to be an epic institution.”

Martin was the keynote speaker for the October 28 Founder’s Day convocation, celebrating the school’s 151 years with a full house at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

Martin is the multiple award-winning host and managing editor of TV One’s News One Now, the first daily morning news program dedicated to news and analysis from the African-American perspective. The author of three books also is the creator and host of “The Roland Martin Show,” a daily nationally-syndicated radio broadcast; a columnist; and an analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

With the tone set in HBCU tradition, Martin turned to the 2016 Presidential election and North Carolina’s black-eye from failed attempts to alter voting laws and disenfranchise voters. “We have to show them our power,” Martin said. Long, single-file lines can turn folks away from the polls, he noted, lest there’s determination. “We gon’ hold that line,” Martin said. “If you mess with the vote, you mess with black people. There is no issue in your life politicians do not impact. Vote your interest.”

Then Martin turned to a larger challenge: “What are you prepared to do?”

 It’s a line from his favorite movie, The Untouchables, in a scene with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. Life’s challenge, Martin said, is to answer: “What’s the “what?” Martin knew the answer by the time he was 14 and attending a communications magnet school.  “Ask God: What is your will for my life?”

Failure to define “the what” leads to “I wish I had” regrets, Martin said. For example, someone once told him he shouldn’t post videos of him dancing on social media. It could ruin his reputation as a serious professional; thwart opportunities to reach higher in his career. Unapologetically, Martin said, he’s still dancing – and grateful his moves are timeless with the push of a button.

“If not for all the talking Muhammad Ali did then, we wouldn’t be able to hear him now,” he said of countless video recordings of the late boxing champ. “I’m not worried about what other people think or say because you never know how your life might change. Play the tape!”

Martin pointed to Arizona democrat Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords. The two met in at an event in South Carolina about a week before a January 2011 assassination attempt left her unable to walk or talk. During the event, Martin coaxed Gifford’s husband to dance with his wife. “That was probably the last time the two of them danced together,” he said. “You cannot live a life of regret.”

Once the “what” is determined, “get prepared,” Martin said. Nothing’s worse, he said, than being ill-prepared for an opportunity. “You never know if that moment will ever come again,” he said. “You have to be prepared, and then you have to put in the time and the work; sweat equity. You have to prepare yourself for the moment of greatness. It requires you to have a plan of action and to execute.”

Then, Martin said, answer “What are you prepared to do” with “Exactly what I’m doing right now.”

Martin also used his refusal to leave TV One – with hopes a full-time move to bigger CNN would land him his own show – as a reminder “no matter what, you must believe you are just as worthy. You’re not secondary to N.C. State or Carolina,” he said. “What you have in your possession is great.”

That’s Shaw’s goal, said Dr. Paulette Dillard, Vice President of Academic Affairs. As the school celebrates its founders, it recognizes that even in a different era, times are as troubling. “Nevertheless,” Dillard said. “It is my firm belief that now, as it was then, the goal of a Shaw University education is to guide students to gain true knowledge and learn how to detect falsehood.”

Change happens, Dillard said, when we determine “what is best and act accordingly.”