TROY - Passion, reason and courage are needed to transform the world. That was the message of award-winning actor and bestselling author Hill Harper during Friday night's opening session of the Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month at Troy University.
Launched in 2002, the Conference is co-sponsored by the University and the City of Troy and seeks to promote dialogue that fosters multicultural collaboration and equip diverse leaders with the tools to better serve their organizations and communities. The theme of this year's conference is "A Century of Achievement: A Salute to African American History and Culture."
"Most of us live lives that are much smaller than we were intended to live because we lack passion; we lack energy," Harper told the crowd gathered in Sartain Hall on the Troy Campus. "If we see an issue or a problem that needs to be changed, energy is required to change it. There is potential energy within all of us. We must turn that potential energy into radiant energy - the energy of light. We have the potential to shine light on the injustice in the world and bring light to the places of darkness."
Individuals also must be willing to turn their potential energy into kinetic energy - the energy of action, Harper said.
"We must go out and do something to make a difference," he said. "Kinetic energy was what Rosa Parks used when she sat in that seat. It is what Dr. King used when he marched. It is what John Lewis used when he walked across that bridge. Kinetic energy - the energy of action - is what is required to bring about change, and it is already in each one of us waiting to be put to work."
Harper also encouraged participants to live with reason.
"Be an active architect of your own life. Have a blueprint or a plan for what you want to do," he said. "You can have all the energy in the world but without a plan or direction that energy will be wasted. A lot of people will have a plan of what they want to accomplish in their heads, but by keeping your plan in your head you will not be accountable to yourself. Map out your plan, your blueprint and hold yourself accountable to achieving what you want to accomplish."
Part of the process of developing a blueprint for your life, Harper said, relies on courage.
"Courage is not the opposite of fear," he said. "The root word of courage translates to mean heart. We must ask ourselves: what do we care about? What's in our heart? Once we determine that, we can formulate a blueprint, hold ourselves accountable and turn the potential energy within ourselves into radiant and kinetic energy that enables us to change our lives, our families, our communities, our country and our world."
Best known for his award-winning portrayal of "Dr. Sheldon Hawkes" on the hit CBS drama "CSI: NY" and as "Calder Michaels" on USA Network's spy drama "Covert Affairs." Harper is a magna cum laude graduate of Brown University and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. He also holds a master's degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
His bestseller "Letters to a Young Brother" was winner of two awards by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and named "Best Book for Young Adults" by the American Library Association. His "Letters to a Young Sister" was a New York Times bestseller, and his credits also include three other books.
The Leadership Conference continues on Saturday with plenary sessions for both students and adults and a closing keynote address by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Frank Ponds, a native of Autaugaville who has served as commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 since 2013.