Calvin Mackie tells Mason students: Build something impactful

Motivational speaker Calvin Mackie met with Mason student leaders as part of a week-long series of events celebrating Washington’s Investiture. . Photo by Shelby Burgess/Strategic Communications

Motivational speaker Calvin Mackie told George Mason University student leaders to take on the world with hope and passion.

“In order for you to do things you need to do for the 21st century, you’re going to have to, one, have belief in yourself. And you’re also going to have to have hope in this place called America,” he said.

Mackie, a friend of Mason President Gregory Washington and the founder of STEM NOLA, a nonprofit organization that engages communities to learn about opportunities in STEM, was invited to speak with the leaders of the university’s student organizations on Oct. 20, as part of a week-long series of events celebrating Washington’s Investiture. He also addressed staff and faculty in a separate campus event.

Calvin Mackie speaking to student leaders. Photo by Shelby
Burgess/Strategic Communications

Mackie shared his life experience—from being a first-generation college student to becoming one of 11 African Americans in 1996 to receive a PhD in mechanical engineering. He is also an award-winning mentor, a former engineering professor, an internationally known speaker and a successful entrepreneur.

“Hope is that little voice in your ear that whispers ‘maybe’ when the world is screaming ‘no,’” Mackie said, and added, “This is the only country where you can wake up and create a better world for yourself.”

Vanerio Montas, president of Collegiate Black Men at Mason, said Mackie made him realize that “in the end, if you keep pushing and keep working, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals.”

Mackie reminded students that they are part of a university led by a president who is committed to helping make that happen.

“As a student leader in multiple organizations, I left the event with a lot of motivational skills, and it boosted my confidence,” said Alyssa Kendrick, an officer of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. “As a minority in society, you feel like you might not have someone there to support you. This event helped remind me how President Washington is leading us and our university.”

While the audience often laughed at Mackie’s passionate storytelling, he left the students on a serious note.

“Get up every day, do something for yourself, put another stake in the ground, so that you never have to depend on anybody,” he said. “Then, when you put that stake in the ground and you generate something … don’t think it’s just for you.”

Oladunni Oni, president of the Black Justice Association at Mason, said Mackie reminded her that going back to help your community is what’s important.

“There’s people who otherwise never had opportunity and access like you,” Mackie said. “You begin to build a world such that when your eyes close, the world will know that you lived.”

That, Mackie said, is what leadership is all about.