Posters? No. Emails? No; well, not until after the fact. Chalk? Nope. So how did I find out that John Legend would be returning to Penn’s campus this past Wednesday? Instagram! Yes. Instagram. One of my friends whom I follow posted a photo of her ticket that she receive which read “MLK Lecture featuring John Legend.” I quickly inquired in the comments and found out that I could obtain the tickets free of charge from the Annenberg Theatre. And that is what I did. The next day, I hustled over to the box office with minimal expectations, assuming that the tickets were sold out, only to be elated when the woman happily handed over the ticket after I presented my Penn ID to her.
On Wednesday, at around 5:00pm, my friends and I excitedly entered Irvine Auditorium and filled the center row as we waited for John to enter the stage. Preceded by various introductions including one from Amy Gutmann herself and a violinist’s rendition of “Ordinary People,” one of John’s well known radio singles, Mr. Legend finally took seat on stage with Camille Charles, director of the Center for Africana Studies. Funnily enough when Camille would ask John, as she casually referred to him, a single question, he would respond with 20-minute response chronicling his life during a specific period of time. I actually appreciated the way Mr. Legend took command of the conversation. It ensured that he was able to communicate what he wished to communicate while simultaneously answering Camille’s questions. In reality, we were all interested in what John had to say, not what Camille had to ask.
Besides the fact that John entered Penn at the age of 16 after having skipped several grade school years, or the fact that unknowingly to me, his musical skills are on songs like Lauren Hill’s “Everything is Everything” and Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know my Name,” what struck a chord with me was John’s passion and dedication to education and education equality. John is so passionate about providing equal education to everyone and insists that we have been allowing kids to fail for too long. He criticized the bureaucracy of the public school system, yet applauded the dedication and hard work of many schoolteachers and principles. He questioned the premises of standardized testing while affirming the need to assess our teachers and compare students fairly.
All in all, it was an incredible afternoon. Make sure to keep an eye out for cool events at Penn, especially since so many of them are free. For instance, on Wednesday, February 27th, as part of the Year of Proof, Robert K. Wittman, former Senior Investigator at the FBI and author of the NY Times bestseller Priceless: How I Went Undercover To Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures will discuss the lengths investigators must go to on the job! Free tickets available at www.penn.museum/priceless.