Meet Donovan Livingston, a member of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He just earned his master’s degree from the hallowed Boston institution and, according to Twitter, he intends to add a doctorate in Education Leadership and Cultural Foundations from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to the stack. Livingston also writes and records bars as D.LIV(E), and many of his songs are as catchy as they are poetic — so Harvard invited him to perform a few lines for his fellow graduates on Wednesday.
The nearly six-minute video of Livingston’s introduction and his spoken word poem, “Lift Off” have since gone viral, and for good reason. Not only is he a talented lyricist and performer, but his words also paint a beautiful, yet haunting portrait of the current state of education in the United States. One that, as Livingston confessed in his opening remarks, is very personal to the young educator:
“You have to forgive me. I have to take in this moment in for a little while. When I spoke at my high school graduation several years ago, my high school English teacher threatened to replace me on the program or cut my microphone when she found out that I was interested in doing a poem as part of my remarks. So I am eternally grateful for being able to share this piece of myself in my most authentic voice with you this afternoon.”
We’re glad Harvard chose to celebrate Livingston’s gifts instead of threatening to diminish them as his previous instructor did, because what he had to say in “Lift Off” is necessary and important listening material. Not just for students and teachers, but for everyday people and presidential candidates, too.
After opening with a famous Horace Mann quote about education being the “great equalizer” from 1848, Livingston’s poem got down to brass tacks:
At the time of his remarks,
I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations, we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow we have never questioned the keeper of the keys,
The guardians of information.
Livingston uses the rest of his time on stage to determine why education today isn’t a great equalizer and explain why he thinks it often fails to improve the plight of underprivileged children. “Injustice is telling them education is the key / While you continue to change the locks,” he continues. “Education is no equalizer / Rather it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream”:
I belong among the stars,
And so do you, and so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness,
For generations to come.
So no, no. Sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Just as much as Livingston belongs among the stars, today’s kids deserve the right to learn from impassioned teachers like him.
(Via Huffington Post)