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2012 Currier Lecture Guest Speaker: Dr. Samuel Betances

Interview with a First-Rate Educator

On Wednesday, February 1st, Columbus Academy welcomed Dr. Samuel Betances as its 2012 Currier Lecture speaker. Through both self-help and education, Betances, a formerly abused, impoverished high school drop out, was able to earn both a masters and Ph.D from Harvard University. Realistic, entertaining, and incredibly inspiring, Dr. Betances immediately drew in students and faculty as he uncovered both the cruel world of his childhood and the limitless possibilities of the world in which he now lives, due to education.

Speaking on a wide variety of topics, including diversity, education, and service, Betances presented a coherent picture to a packed crowd. The auditorium was filled to capacity with every seat taken, seniors sitting on the stage, and some middle schoolers watching his presentation on screens in the lobby.

The core of Betances’ message concerned what he calls “social capital.” As he explained, social capital is the combination of factors we are born with-such as socioeconomic status or whether our parents are college graduates. For Academy students, the way to share this capital is easy: tutor.

Charming and dynamic, Betances even put his mantra into poetic form:

“Help others to excel and soar,

And you will learn a great deal more.

They leap-frog to success

While you catapult to become the best.”

This concept of helping others–and in the process–helping yourself learn is something all students blessed with the social capital to attend a school like Academy should bear in mind. As Betances later said, “When you tutor others, you are not doing missionary work. You are saving yourself.”

In terms of diversity, a subject on which Betances is certainly an expert, he urged the same sort of expansion of bandwidth through contact with individuals of diverse heritage and life stories. Betances encourages students to embrace diversity as an opportunity because no one single ethnicity can exercise leadership alone. Betances said, “For the first time in the history of the United States of America,  no one single group can exercises leadership alone. If you come to a place of learning, where you have an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and expand your relationship base and do not take advantage of it-shame on you.”

When our all-too-brief, 45-minute interview with Betances was over, followed by his speech to the school, we felt deeply moved by his words. Betances inspired action that we hope to see among our students in the coming weeks and months. Of the many speakers we have heard at Academy, few have had the power of narration and message as that of Betances.

Written by Clarissa Leickly’12 and Harry Wexner’13


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