Last night, I had the privilege of hearing Bakari Sellers speak to a group of 1,500 members of AIPAC. It was the first time I had ever heard of Bakari Sellers, much less ever had the chance to see him speak.
From the evening program, I learned that Sellers is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. I further learned that at 22 years old, he was the youngest elected African-American official in the United States. His father, Cleveland Sellers, is a well-known activist who played a pivotal role in organizing the protests against a segregated bowling alley in South Carolina.
Yet these interesting facts do not tell a fraction of the story about the person from whom we were about to hear.
In Bakari Sellers, I was impressed by a person who understood context at a very young age. He told stories of his life and the years that led up to his life. He spoke of his father's unjust imprisonment and eventual pardon, and the way that affected him and his family years ago and today. He spoke about his education, his path through law school, and the beginnings of a political career. He spoke about a trip he took to Israel and the lessons he learned on that trip -- about the history of a unique people, and their very unique similarities to Americans here in the United States.
Each person is given a unique history, a set of circumstances, a place in time and space, which shapes his entire perspective. Transcending that perspective to understand both the challenges and the opportunities afforded to each of us is one of the most difficult, yet important aspects of personal growth.
In Sellers, I saw a young man who has begun this personal development, who has shown an ability to connect with people who, on the surface, seem to have nothing in common with him. He spoke with poise, patience, sincerity, and authority to a room that had already digested six other speakers and was continuing to devour tables full of salad, appetizers, and alcohol. Sellers's presence and his speech quieted the room; you wanted to hear everything he had to say.
Mr. Sellers, I listened intently to everything you said last night, and I look forward to hearing you speak again. I disagree with only one single point from your talk: Your most important day has not yet come. I believe your most important day is somewhere in your future, and you will realize that future in your years to come.