Closing out the first day of the 2019 Clemson University Men of Color National Summit, Joy Thomas Moore used her keynote address Thursday to tell youth in attendance that “given the opportunity and someone who really believes in you, you can achieve.”

Moore, president and CEO of JWS Media Consulting, a Peabody Award winner and mother of author Wes Moore, related the parable of an eagle who was raised as a chicken and refused to take flight.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not an eagle. You are,” she said. “You have survived all kinds of injustices. You have an eagle heart.”

She cautioned that many competing voices in their lives want them to believe otherwise.

“There are a lot of chickens out there that want you to believe you’re not an eagle,” she said, urging them to hear the mother who gave birth to them. “Listen to the woman who saw the promise in you the moment you were born and will always be the wind beneath your wings.”

Moore quoted from her son’s book, “The Other Wes Moore” in describing single mothers as the backbone of America, not its burden. “Single moms don’t get the acknowledgment or kudos they should get,” she said.

The book describes the lives of her son and another young man by the same name who grew up in close proximity in Baltimore. Her son, who attended military school, took advantage of opportunities presented to him and went on to become a Rhodes Scholar. The other got involved in a jewelry store robbery in which a decorated police officer and father of six was killed.

“He’s a smart guy and he’s wasted in prison because of the choices he made,” she said.

“As you go through your college experiences and we as adults help you do that, we are there to help you make those choices that will in fact not only help you strengthen your own lives but strengthen our communities.”

She described the decision to send her son to military school. “What it did was give him voice. It allowed him an opportunity to know what he could do,” she said.

“Believing in yourself is the key to success,” she said. “You are in the room because you deserve to be there. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”