On September 8, 2019, I gave the keynote address to a group of University of Tennessee Knoxville students for their fall officer training. Jasmine Wilcox, the president of the United Residence Halls Association (URHC) invited me as I had served as president of the student organization in 1997/98. URHC is a student organization representing all those who live in residence halls at UTK and whose purpose is to “unite the students living in residence halls through leadership, programming, service, and education.”
In my remarks, I shared some stories about my race back in 1997 and some of our accomplishments including VolFest, a beginning of the year event designed to show students and residents what their residence halls can do for them and to encourage year-round participation. I believe VolFest continued on for at least another 14 years. We also added a public forum to our agenda and held a Hall Olympics, where each Hall competed in various sporting like events.
It’s been 22 years since my time with URHC which had a significant impact me. I explained to the students that many of the skills they are learning in URHC today are the same as those we need on City Council. In both roles you need to set a budget, outline your priorities, respond to your constituents, be comfortable in public speaking, find ways to work together, and learn Robert’s Rules of Order so you can run a meeting. I told the students that all these skills I started to learn during my time with URHC have served me well after graduation and Law School at UT.
I reminded the students that we will always face challenges in anything worth our effort, but often our greatest challenge is that we underestimate ourselves and what we can accomplish together. At the beginning of 1997, would any of the students in URHC have predicted our success in accomplishing all we did…not likely. But, through the effort of so many students we did. I encouraged the students to be ambitious with their goals while in college and in the next phase of their lives.
I truly appreciate the opportunities serving in URHC gave me and for the chance to visit with these amazing young leaders.