2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Kenisha M.

If the question is posed, “What makes someone inspirational?” the only common characteristic within the answers received would be that every definition varies. However, inspiration is something that everyone can identify with, as it translates throughout all ethnicities, religions, cultures, and decades. It’s nearly impossible to discuss being inspired and not talk about the tears and toils that my African ancestors went through building America, in hopes that one day their descendants would be able to be seen as equals. Their hard work was not in vain as their descendants have gone on to be extremely influential people who, like they did, are producing great things. One of these many descendants who has made an impact on my life, personally, is Mellody Hobson. She has truly paved the way so others can see her accomplishments and be inspired to reach to higher heights.

The first time I watched Mellody Hobson’s TED Talk I experienced her magnetism which compelled me to hang on to every word she said. Her speech sparked a curiosity in me that was seemingly unquenchable. Upon further research, I found that Mellody Hobson is an extremely successful person who has accomplished a lot thus far. I say this not because she is the president of Ariel Investments, not because she is the Chair of the Board of Directors for DreamWorks Animation, not because she is on the board for Starbucks and Estee Lauder, not because of the thousands of articles written about her, and not because the character Courtney Page in the TV show The Good Wife is based on her life, but because she is using her knowledge to influence others and to make a lasting change within this world.

One quality of a successful speaker is that the words they say will transcend that moment in time and travel with you for so much longer than previously anticipated. Hobson did just that. As I listened to her discuss being “Color Blind vs. Color Brave”, I could not shake the feeling that Hobson was personally talking to me. She discussed how we must discard our, sometimes unconscious, tendency to surround ourselves with people who look like us. Though this may not be an active decision, it is surely an important one. Had I, myself, felt more comfortable with putting less effort into getting to know people who didn’t look like me? The sad answer was yes. I took that small nugget of wisdom and used it to change my life. 

I altered my previously unconscious decision by starting with small steps like consciously deciding where I was sitting for dinner and who I would partner up with in class. I, then, graduated to sharing my knowledge with the people around me. The goal is to have a diversified life consisting of people from varying backgrounds and ethnicities. Mellody Hobson inspired me to be color brave and to stop letting this unconscious decision prevent me from truly experiencing and enjoying the beauty found in diversity.


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