By Denise Williams
The Florida/Georgia Star
On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, newly elected Congressman Alfred James Lawson toured Jean Ribault high school located on Winton Dr., Jacksonville, FL. The purpose of this visit was to meet with honor students and other student leaders to acclimate himself to younger constituents in his district. The rezoning of the 5th congressional district and the indictment of federal corruption charges alleged against former Congresswoman Corrine Brown allowed Congressman Lawson to connect with new supporters thereby winning his seat on August 30, 2016.
In July of 2015, the Florida Supreme court ruled the state’s 5th congressional district was unconstitutional. This ruling led to a redefining of the district’s boundaries.
Congressman Lawson is no stranger to politics. As a U.S. Senator, he represented the 6th district from 2000 through 2010. In addition, he represented that same district from1982 through 2000. In 2012, he represented district 2 and in 2016 he represented district 5.
Congressman Lawson met with Paula D. Wright, chairman of the Duval School Board, Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, School Superintendent, Christopher Jackson, principal of Jean Ribault high school, Pastor John Guns of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Inc. and a host of supporters.
The congressman hosted a round table discussion which included senior and freshman students. This forum focused primarily on the importance of pursuing advanced degrees.
The congressman shared with the students that the way to success is through persevering in the face of difficulty and being a role model. He spoke extensively of his own background while giving accolades to the adults who left an indelible impression on him when he was a youth. Throughout his discussion with the young people he continually spoke of the qualities leaders cultivate
while reminding them no matter the task with the help of the school, officials, clergy and parents they can remain positive role models.
He recounted his academic experiences and urged the students to seek out adults, family members, coaches and teachers for mentor’s ship. He shared with the students some of the hardships he faced growing up which included being raised in a single parent home, experiencing homeless for 3 years and watching very few of his friends pursue college. In spite of the opposition he faced, he reminded the young people that his high school years provided him the foundation he needed to nurture his career. In particular, he recounted an epiphany he had while in the 9th grade.
While in his 9th-grade year he read about Abraham Lincoln and the destitution he faced before becoming the 16th President of the United States. This realization made helped him decide that if a former president can have such humble beginnings yet attains the white house; then he too, can achieve his own personal agendas.
The congressman gave the students a brief outline of how to accomplish their goals. He advised them to document their goals in a list. Once a targeted goal is written it is more likely to be achieved.
He revealed his own personal formula for achievement, this included: hard work, solid ethics, self-discipline, and athletics. Athletics taught him how to be a leader, remain accountable and the magnitude of teamwork.
Prior to the Q&A, he declared to each of the young people in the boardroom that they were all winners.