“When 'right' is on your side, you just keep on moving,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said to University of Richmond students when answering questions about honor and equity.
Stoney, 38, became Richmond’s youngest elected mayor at age 35 and was the first African American secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Stoney spoke Monday evening in the Queally Auditorium in the Robins School of Business.
“I know now that in American society these days, we tell young people that if they play by the rules and work hard that they are destined for success,” Stoney said. “But, that’s just not true in the United States of America.
“Honor, to me, is doing the right thing. I got involved in public service because I wanted to right wrongs and give a voice for the voiceless.”
The talk in its entirety was dictated by student questions for Stoney.
Students were given the ability to voice their own concerns and questions, junior Olivia Coffey said.
“I thought it was so awesome and organic that he did a Q&A and not a planned speech," Coffey said. "It was tailored to us.”
One student asked Stoney what advice he would give to students trying to balance personal integrity and getting ahead in one’s position, which got applause from the audience.
“It can be enticing to cut corners in a competitive environment,” Stoney responded. “But, let your work speak for itself. If you are exceptional, the cream will always rise to the top.”
Stoney said that he also understood how doing the right thing can be challenging.
“I proposed a robust budget investing more money into public education, an extra $37 million,” Stoney said. “For me, it is the right thing to do. 75% of the kids that attend Richmond public schools live under the poverty line or near the poverty line. Although, I have made some people very uncomfortable.”
The talk with Stoney was held by the UR Honor Councils in an effort to start a dialogue about honor, said junior Jacob Queller, Richmond College Honor Council president.
“The mayor was engaging, and students had really great questions,” Queller said. “We knew going into this that this was an open forum that anyone could ask any question that they would want to, which is great.”
In an interview after the event, Stoney said honor can have an essential role in helping marginalized communities and communities that have been cheated.
“What’s right or wrong is universal, no matter your circumstance,” Stoney said. “My focus has been to balance the scales.
"There is some inequities in our system that have robbed generations and generations of people of the same sort of success that others have been able to achieve. With integrity, we can still give people what they need to be successful.”
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