Life is a voyage of successes, failures, and interactions of every kind. These experiences make us who we are; they are our legacy. On Thursday, October 23, York College had the honor of welcoming onto its campus--and being welcomed into his personal legacy--the speaker, educator, author, artist, and social entrepreneur, Greg Forbes Siegman.
Siegman spoke during Thursday’s Chapel and later that evening at East Hill Church of Christ. His art exhibit, My Sleepless Nights, was also on exhibit in the church foyer, and he was on hand to autograph his book. He shared with those in attendance his definition of legacy, while also inquiring about the legacy of the audience.
Then he spoke about his personal journey of overcoming heartache, shut doors, and closed minds. Through all of the events that he has endured, he learned that they were shaping him. “What happens in our life affects how we handle situations,” said Siegman.
Siegman went on to explain how what he experienced growing up would resurface and play into his life. He discussed the idea of a ripple effect that plays itself out. His life has been a combination of ripple effects and hard work. He noted how intellect can only determine so much; work ethic and refusing to give up is what truly makes the difference.
He dedicated himself to success all through high school and reached all of his goals until he asked the wrong teacher to write his reference letter. This event, among many, began the ripple affect in his life. However, even though it influenced him, he never let it dictate his actions. As he put it: “People don’t remember how you were treated, they remember how you respond.”
This very belief has helped him take barriers and turn them into bridges. He is known most for his work overcoming racial and cultural barriers. Sparked by an incident when two black students accompanied him to get milk shakes in a local dinner and an ignorant older woman’s response, he began a program known as the Brunch Bunch where every Sunday he would bring together kids from various ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds to interact. He continued this for 243 straight weeks.
This was one huge accomplishment among an array of mind blowing successes, including finishing a triathlon, when he had not trained and had never even kayaked. This is only a glimpse of the inspirational interaction that YC students had with him on Thursday. Some were also able to sit with him in their classes and join him at lunch.
Among his accomplishments are: his award-winning book, The First Thirty, based on his life and lessons learned; the 11-10-02 Foundation that he began to help pay for students to go to college; the Jefferson Award for Public Service; America’s Daily Point of Light; recognition as one of America’s 2005 top social entrepreneurs under 40, and interviews on Good Morning America, NPR, and in USA Today.
His book was honored as the NSDLC 2007 Multicultural Relations Book of the Year and his art has been exhibited in places such as Canada, Chicago, California and Africa. It includes portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., John McCain, Barack Obama, and Rocky Balboa. He recently served as American Scholar in Residence for a US-based volunteerism program in Africa.
In conjunction with Siegman's visit to campus, York State Bank & Trust Co. ordered some copies of The First Thirty and donated them to the school for its Business majors to read. The bank's Chief Operating Officer, Mark Way, personally attended the event to provide the gift to the school. To learn more about Greg Siegman, and what he is involved in, visit his website www.GregForbes.com.