Although the conference’s topic was “alleviating childhood poverty in Ohio,” Brown and other speakers spoke broadly about how students could serve the community.
Students who want to “pursue activism” as a career should consider volunteering for a presidential campaign as a starting point, he said.
“Politicians don’t pay enough attention to you,” Brown said. “So be as engaged as you can in the next three or four weeks.”
Lucius Knowles-Campbell, a senior from Toledo who is studying history at Central State University, asked Brown what else he could do to jump-start a career in public service. Brown told him to look for internships, and that the best ones may not pay well or anything at all.
In order to decide what issue Knowles-Campbell should get involved with, Brown told him to “think about what keeps you up at night.”
Knowles-Campbell said he has long been interested in public service and thinks it’s a field that could use more young people.
“I was just thinking, you know, why not me?” Knowles-Campbell said.
Brown told students not to get discouraged when they hear that things used to be better in “the old days.” Times were not better and they especially were not for black or Hispanic Americans, Brown said.
“The challenges are just different now,” he said.
Students also heard from leaders in community service and health from across the state, as well as Debra Eschmeyer, director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Eschmeyer is from New Knoxville, Ohio, and is a 2002 Xavier University graduate.
Eschmeyer told students about a recent ceremony where Michelle Obama gave a speech. She teased Eschmeyer for being so enthusiastic about her job. It’s the kind of trait Eschmeyer said she’s happy to be teased about.
“You have the ability to decide how you’re described,” she said.
Like Brown, Eschmeyer tried to encourage students who are interested in public service. She told them she had eight jobs before going to work at the White House and she said students should not rule out starting somewhere small where they can learn a lot.
“I was learning about everything it takes to run a nonprofit,” she said.