Usher Gives Talk at Emory

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on February 17, 2012

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It’s not the kind of place one expects to see the R & B singer Usher, yet there he was, holding forth on leadership yesterday at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta. The keynote speaker at the twelfth annual Undergraduate Business School Leadership Conference, Usher offered himself up as an example of what can be accomplished with hard work and know-how.

“I think about all the incredible beginnings there have been in Atlanta,” Usher said, referencing those from the city who have been successful in entertainment and other industries. “I’m standing in front of a room of future leaders.”

The Usher event was closed to the public, but Emory supplied excerpts of his comments. Since 1999 Usher has been a proponent of training young people to be leaders who will make a difference through service as part of his New Look Foundation. The organization, which provides leadership certification to young people, teamed with Emory’s Executive MBA program to create a curriculum for the certification program based on four pillars - talent, education, career, and service.

Along with New Look Foundation President Shawn Wilson and four Atlanta-based youth who are part of the organization, Usher encouraged participants in the private, student-run and student-planned conference to pursue their passions and serve others throughout their careers. "Feel great about what you do," Usher said.

While Usher might not seem like an obvious choice for a speaker on leadership, he is a successful businessman in addition to being an entertainer, and the Goizueta administration was supportive of his appearance.

"I believe Usher's vision, which includes starting early, embracing talent in its many forms, and providing education, training, mentorship and the opportunity to give back, will resonate deeply with our conference participants," said Andrea Hershatter, Goizueta's senior associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the BBA program. "We could not be more excited to have him as the keynote."

Rather than wax philosophical, Usher offered practical advice. "It's one thing to have a dream and an idea, but you need the tools to get it done and make your dream a reality," he said. Ultimately, Usher charged audience members with a mission to discover their calling. And he drew on his own experiences to illustrate the importance of this. "I love working," Usher said. "But it's really the heart of the work that makes a difference for me."

-Francesca Di Meglio

Photo by Tony Benner

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