Presidential Peer Seminar

Introduction of Speaker
by Dr. William R. Harvey

Hilton Marriott Beach and Golf Resort
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Wednesday, July 28, 2004 @ 6:00 P.M.

Atty. Baskerville, members of the Board, member presidents, family members, and friends. I have the pleasure, at this time, of introducing an individual who could be described, at the very least, as multitalented, and at the most, as a man of pure genius. He has made us laugh and think, reflect and envision the state of our relationships and world. He has made us proud of ourselves and of our connections with one another. He is America’s most beloved “father figure.”

Our speaker became famous as a stand-up comedian on the night-club circuit. His popularity was so great, in fact, that he began making comedy albums. He has won five Grammy’s and seven gold records for his comedy albums.

Our speaker then turned to acting. From 1965 to 1968, he co-starred in the adventure series “I Spy,” for which he won three Emmy Awards. He was a pioneer of the era because he was the first African American actor to appear in a continuing dramatic role on U.S. television.

He would go on to star in and produce a number of television series. The Cosby Show was the number one ranked show for four consecutive years and was nominated for eight Emmy Awards.

Having championed recordings, television, and film, our speaker began to engage his audiences through books. His 1986 book, Fatherhood, is still a favorite. Other titles to his credit are Time Flies, Love and Marriage, Bill Cosby’s Personal Guide to Tennis Power, Friends of a Feather, and I Am What I Ate and I Am Frightened. An exceptional writer and scholar, he makes complex observations about family life accessible through humor and a strong dose of good advice.

Over the last couple of years, I have come to know, appreciate, and respect him even more through a series of incidents which I will briefly share with you now. The first deals with his presence here tonight. When we called and asked if he would speak to the Black college presidents this week, the first thing that the said was that, “I respect Black colleges so much, therefore I need to do that. I shall do everything that I can to be there.”

Secondly, Dr. Cosby read about two high school seniors from Springfield, Massachusetts who had lived alone together since they were 14 years of age. One of the boy’s mothers was in jail on drug related charges and the other had other kinds of family problems. He contacted the young men and told them that he would pay for them to go to college as long as they chose a Black college to attend. They asked to visit Morehouse, Howard, and Hampton. He then put them on his private plane and took them to Atlanta to visit Morehouse, Washington to visit Howard, and Hampton to visit Hampton University. The young men chose Hampton and he has committed to pay for their education as long as they make respectable grades.

His interest in and support for Black colleges are not surprising, given his history. He and Mrs. Cosby have donated some $20 million to Spelman College; $1 million to several other Black schools, and have paid for countless other students to attend college. He has clearly put his money where his mouth is. For your philanthropy Dr. Cosby, I want you to know that we owe you a profound debt of gratitude.

The third incident deals with his public comments concerning responsibility of Black youths and the Black community. He has upbraided some of us in the Black community for our grammar, physical abuse of our women, and glamorizing convicts who steal, murder, and pump drugs into our community by calling them political criminals. And I want to tell you something—he is right. These thieves, murderers, pimps, and drug kingpins do not deserve our sympathy. They are destroying our communities and we should castigate them for it. We also cannot blame whites for all the ills in the Black community. We should do as he says and look into the mirror and see that in many instances, we have met the enemy and he is us.

In several conversations recently, I told him that I would be happy to enlist in his army. Those of us that are leading Black higher education institutions should speak out just as he has against the things that are destroying our communities.

Dr. Cosby is here tonight because he values us. Let us show him how much we value his wisdom and life’s work by taking up his cause in our various communities.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you an accomplished comedian, recording artist, actor, producer, director, author, philanthropist, and sage—Dr. William Henry Cosby, Jr.