Hard work, resilience and perseverance are some of the keys to success, said President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

President Freeman Hrabowski addresses a packed-house at the Greenville Convention Center. Image credit: University Relations

President Freeman Hrabowski addresses a packed-house at the Greenville Convention Center. Image credit: University Relations

Hrabowski gave a rousing speech Friday during his luncheon keynote on the second day of the 2019 Clemson University Men of Color National Summit in which he encouraged students to dream big, set goals, have faith and exhibit humility.

The world is changing, he said. But while the percentage of adults with a college education in America has risen from 10 percent in 1965, it’s still just 30 percent. “With all that progress, I can tell you two-thirds of American families have not seen anyone graduate from college,” he said.

The two-day conference at the Greenville Convention Center is dedicated to closing the achievement gap for African-American and Hispanic males.

In addition to believing in yourself, Hrabowski said, academic success takes skills like leadership, communication, motivation. But above all, he said, the key is reading and thinking.

He talked of how his mother developed a love for reading while working as a maid in a private home. There, she was invited to read books in the library after she finished her work and then take them home and come back the next day prepared to discuss them.

Clemson professor Oliver Myers embraces President Hrabowski after introducing him as keynote speaker for the Men of Color luncheon. Image credit: University Relations

Clemson professor Oliver Myers embraces President Hrabowski after introducing him as keynote speaker for the Men of Color luncheon. Image credit: University Relations

The issue is that many don’t find reading interesting.

“If you don’t read well, it’s never interesting,” he said. “She said this, the more she read the better the reader she became. And the more proficient a reader she became the more she enjoyed reading. And the more she enjoyed it the more she did it.”

At the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the school stresses reading skills, a sense of self and grit. “Don’t you let anybody else define who you are. You must know who you are. ” he said.

“If you watch your thoughts, young people, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits they become your character,” he said. “Your character has everything to do with who you are when you don’t think anyone can see you. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”