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John Legend coming to campus to speak on education

John Legend performs during a climate rally on the National Mall to celebrate Earth Day in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April 25, 2010. On campus, John Legend will speak about education.Olivier Douliery | Abaca Press | MCT

John Legend performs during a climate rally on the National Mall to celebrate Earth Day in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April 25, 2010. On campus, John Legend will speak about education.

While Al Gore and Sofia Vergara may not be coming to campus this year, despite Student Union Treasury voting to fund them, two high-profile speakers will be on campus this week. One of them, singer-songwriter and nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend, will be speaking and singing in Graham Chapel this Friday, April 6, at 7 p.m.

Every year the Association of Black Students (ABS) holds the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium and brings a speaker to campus that its members believe embodies the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. This year that speaker is John Legend.

“A lot of people get excited about the fact that he’s singing,” junior Justin Nicks, president of ABS, said. “I’m more excited about the content, because he’s a young gentleman who’s really using his role as a singer, as an influencer, to really reach back and speak on a very important issue.”

When you think of John Legend, you probably know him as a singer, pianist, actor and nine-time Grammy Award winner, but he’s also an activist. Although he will be performing four or five songs, for the bulk of the evening he will be talking about a topic that resonates with all of us: education.

ABS came together and decided on the topic of education for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium before choosing John Legend as the keynote speaker. According to senior Justine Anderson, ABS’s education chair, the group’s goal this year is to cultivate, enhance and expand the University’s connected community.

“We think that the issue of education, bringing it up, is something that would really benefit our community because education is something that we’re all involved with,” Anderson said.

Before Legend’s speech this Friday, ABS has planned a number of events including a screening of “Waiting for Superman” on Monday, volunteering at Kids’ Place on Tuesday, and a discussion on education disparities on Wednesday. The week will culminate in the symposium at which Legend will perform, speak and hold a question-and-answer session. ABS will give out its annual college scholarships, “Dollars for Scholars,” to local St. Louis high school students at the symposium.

“I’m really curious as to what he thinks us college students can do to get involved to help close the achievement gap and really help us to eliminate educational disparities,” Nicks said.

Nicks hopes the event will motivate students to take action on social issues, whether or not those issues are related to education. He believes the event is more than just an opportunity to see someone famous speak.

A number of student groups are co-sponsoring the event, including the Black Alumni Council, Books and Basketball, the Stereotypes, the Learning to Live Mentoring program and City Faces. Additional sponsors include the National Black MBA Association and Teach For America.

Tickets for John Legend’s speech can be picked up at the Edison Box Office with a valid Washington University ID. Half of the tickets will be given out on Tuesday, April 3, starting at 10 a.m., and the other half will be given out on Wednesday, April 4, starting at the same time. ABS members expect the tickets, which are free to students, to be in high demand.

Doors open at 6:30 on Friday. Students must present a valid Washington University ID and their ticket in order to enter Graham Chapel.