John Legend

John Legend speaks to students about education issues and his involvement with philanthropies and Teach for America in Hogg Auditorium Tuesday evening. Legend ended the lecture with a musical performance including his new song “Tonight.”

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Grammy Award-winning singer John Legend said during an on-campus lecture Tuesday that the solution to many problems of inequality and poverty lies in a well-grounded education.

Legend said in order for individuals to pursue their passions, it is necessary to repair inequalities in the country’s educational systems.

“I believe that each one of you in this room has potential and can create change,” Legend said. “We all possess the ability to think critically and question the status quo. Education is a gift. It can open doors. Without it, doors will remain closed and options will be limited.”

Legend delivered his “Voices with Power to Impact the World” lecture in Hogg Auditorium and spoke to UT students about motivation, education and possible economic issues they may encounter after graduation. The event was organized by the Student Events Center and its Distinguished Speakers Committee, Music & Entertainment Committee and African American Culture Committee. Deaunderia Bowens, a Student Events Center advisor, said the $55,000 that paid for Legend’s visit was pulled from student fees and revenues from University Unions.

“The event is a way to make students aware of who we are, and we hope that this event showcases the best that we can do as event planners,” Bowens said.

All of these committees work together through the Student Events Center, bringing experienced speakers to campus, educating students about African American heritage and coordinating performances by renowned artists around the country, respectively.

Legend said he knew from a young age he wanted to attend college and get signed to a record label. He said after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, he was happy to have completed college.

“Earning a degree has made me a better person. Not the piece of paper but the experiences and struggles I overcame,” Legend said. “I am now able to see the world in different ways.”

He is a board member of Teach for America, an organization that places recent college graduates in teaching positions in areas with subpar educational systems. Legend said 61 UT graduates joined Teach For America last year.

Legend said there is a need to repair and make progress in the American education system. He said America has been deemed the land of opportunity but not every person receives the same academic opportunity.

“Many high schools today are called ‘drop-out factories,’” Legend said. “This rate of high school dropouts is contributing to the perpetual cycle of poverty. In some cities, where a child is born determines the quality of education and life prospects they will receive.”

After the lecture, Legend performed a free concert for those in attendance. Students screamed and applauded in support of the singer.

Theatre and dance senior Jessica Obilom, who attended the lecture, said Legend is a talented singer and she enjoyed the opportunity to see him perform.

John Legend: Voices with Power to Impact the World from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 as: Legend hails education