In a moving presentation that was part a reflection of identity, a call for service and an inspiring personal story of resilience, the 2020-2021 PTF Parent Up Speaker Series continued last week with Steve Pemberton and his message to “let our life be a lighthouse” in the service of others.
Mr. Pemberton is the best-selling author of his memoir A Chance in the World, which was adapted into a major motion picture. He tells the story of growing up in foster care, where it was written about him that he would not have “a chance in the world” to succeed due to his circumstances. His determination to better his life was met by the kindness of everyday citizens, including his beloved teachers, who offered their helping hand and affirmed his fight. He is now an innovative diversity and inclusion thought leader, visionary youth advocate and acclaimed speaker devoted to inspiring and helping others.
Mr. Pemberton led a presentation to parents, and also took part in a Q&A with Upper School students Molly Green and Evan Lee which was played in Upper School and Middle School advisory.
He started his parent presentation by talking about identity, comparing one’s identity to an iceberg in the sea. There are visible attributes, such as skin color, age, accent and physical abilities, which are “above the water line.” But there are many other invisible attributes—values, habits, education, socio-economic status, thinking styles and more—which lurk below the surface, where Mr. Pemberton said “you see this much deeper, richer story.”
“There you find moments of connection, you find a common story that we so desperately need in America today,” Mr. Pemberton said. “We have forgotten that we all inherit a common space and we all have a common story, but you never get to that common story if the only focus is on what is above the water line.”
That understanding of identity and how one fits into the community benefits people throughout their lives, from casual settings to workplace environments.
Mr. Pemberton then built on that to speak of the “lighthouses” in his life which allowed him to escape his challenging beginning. The metaphor of people as lighthouses is the basis for his upcoming book The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World.
“The lighthouse is the most selfless structure ever constructed, because it exists only to serve others,” Pemberton said.
The lighthouse turns doubts into destinations, and has “an uncompromising belief in your ability to find safe harbor and its own ability to guide you” – something he thinks about when reflecting on mentors who helped him rise out of foster care and into Boston College, where he matriculated after high school.
“The most powerful lighthouses in the world are the human ones,” Pemberton said. “We all have the opportunity to let our life be the lighthouse.”
Mr. Pemberton’s presentation can be viewed by clicking here
(password: smes) or by visiting the Parent Up Speaker Series Resource tile on mySMES.
The Parent Up Speaker Series is funded through a generous PTF grant, and speakers are selected by PTF leaders in conjunction with St. Margaret’s school leaders. This year’s Parent Up Speaker Series committee includes PTF President Dana Melsom, Parent Up Speakers Series Chair Kristen Olosky, Parent Up Speaker Series assistant Carrie Quintanar, St. Margaret’s Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem, Director of Equity and Inclusion Mr. Cota and PTF Office Manager Beth Adamany.
The final speaker of the 2020-2021 school year will take place on Friday, March 5, with Dr. Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and New York Times-bestselling author who has written on the parent-child relationship and how parents can better communicate with their school-aged children.