Funnyman Bill Cosby gets serious in Tulsa speech on education
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2012
10/25/12 at 7:42 AM
Bill Cosby spoke to a full house Wednesday morning at Booker T. Washington's Nathan E. Harris Field House.
The actor, comedian and author addressed the school's junior and senior classes, faculty and administrators, as well as city officials, community leaders and ministers.
The topic was, fittingly, education.
Speaking more like a preacher than a stand-up comedian, Cosby paced back and forth on the stage, engaging the audience, asking questions and demanding answers in return.
"We need people to talk to each other and not make excuses for bad behavior," he said.
Students shouldn't let others pressure them into being afraid to learn and better themselves, he added.
"You don't cower to somebody telling you not to get an education. You don't cower to somebody who's not doing anything," Cosby said. "If you love science, that doesn't mean you're a bad person. If you love math; if you love school ..."
He also recognized the teachers at the school and its principal, James Furch.
"He's here for a reason, and you don't take that for granted," he told the students. "He has a passion and a love, and it's teaching."
Before Cosby spoke, several people, including Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker; Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard; and Victoria Bartlett, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett's wife, spoke to the students.
"I was nervous this morning because I was going to get to meet one of my heroes," Ballard said of Cosby.
The superintendent also talked about having met former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who told him the vital role urban schools play in the nation.
Cosby raised his fist in the air in agreement as Ballard spoke.
The renowned entertainer was invited to speak at Booker T. Washington by Janice Bayouth, chairwoman of the BTW Centennial Organization. Baker helped her line up Cosby, who had performed at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa in July.
During a news conference after his presentation Wednesday, Cosby said the decline of education in the United States can't be blamed on the children.
"Things have changed. It's the community; it's the home; it's the streets; it's the child's walk to school and especially the home," he said. "Even with all the programs, we still have things hitting us from outside telling children education doesn't work."
Cosby said parents, teachers and the community have to work to instill the importance of education in children.
"I believe in people getting together and galvanizing," he said. "People need to take charge."
During the news conference, City Councilor Jack Henderson made Cosby an honorary Booker T. Washington alumnus and presented him with a key to the city.
In addition to speaking at the high school, Cosby also addressed the Rotary Club of Tulsa on Wednesday.
Original Print Headline: Students schooled
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Actor, author and comedian Bill Cosby speaks Wednesday at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa as Talia Shall (left) and Trey Stevens listen from the stage. Cosby pushed the value of education to students and community leaders during his visit, which came during the school's centennial celebration. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Bill Cosby wears a school T-shirt as he speaks at Booker T. Washington High School on Wednesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Comedian and author Bill Cosby speaks with City Councilor Jack Henderson (right) at Booker T. Washington High School on Wednesday. Cosby talked about the importance of education during his visit. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Lorenzo MacLean calls out to a classmate while wearing a "Cosby sweater" after Bill Cosby's speech at Booker T. Washington High School. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World