For decades, the University of Michigan has cancelled classes on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and held a university-wide symposium, and students are encouraged to attend the various talks happening that day in lieu of class. I made it to the UM Business and Finance Diversity Committee’s MLK Convocation because, even though there was no class, I still had to go to a meeting and hold office hours–this was the only talk I could make it to.
Albert Mensah told a fascinating story about growing up in Ghana, chasing his dreams, and finally making it to America. His story begins with his childhood, and his father’s decision to take a job with the military to give his family a better life. After being in the military for a while, Albert’s father is invited to go to a movie with his family. Albert watched well-dressed Americans waste food in the movie, and decided then that he wanted to go to America–they offered him food and shoes, two things he grew up without.
After writing to over 900 colleges (going through the alphabet), one was finally kind enough to respond. He jumped through the hoops (taking the SAT even though the first he heard of it was the response from the college), got into college, and got a full ride. He was able to fly to the United States because his father took an early retirement and spent most of the money on Albert’s plane ticket. Though his father no longer had a job and not much money to support the rest of his family, he believed that Albert’s education was more valuable and it would allow him to support the family in the future.
Albert is now a successful speaker and travels around the country telling his story and inspiring people to follow their dreams and to be their best. He emphasized that bad situations are what you make of them, and are more likely than not opportunities in disguise–be “better, not bitter”. He reiterated that if you have a dream and pursue it single-mindedly, you will succeed. His dream was to come to America and have food and shoes, but as a result of his dedication, he also has a whole lot more. And in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., holding on to your dreams may be the only way to achieve great things.