InspireNOLA scholars motivated by Eric Thomas

Eric Thomas tells InspireNOLA scholars: When you put forth effort, you are unstoppable
Posted on 09/13/2019
NEW ORLEANS — Critically acclaimed author, world-renowned speaker, educator, pastor and Audie Awards Finalist, Eric Thomas addressed InspireNOLA eight-twelfth graders this week.

Thomas, known as “ET, The Hip Hop Preacher,” went from a high school dropout to earning a Ph.D. and becoming an international motivational speaker. He spoke to InspireNOLA students about the importance of showing up and putting in the effort to have a better future. 

“At InspireNOLA, we focus on inspiring higher and defying the odds. Eric Thomas is someone who personifies that. His raw honesty about his high school experience and what it took for him to get where he is today proves to our scholars that if you want it, if you have a goal, if you execute it, you can overcome the odds, get an education, and make the most of your lives,” said InspireNOLA CEO Jamar McKneely. “It was a privilege to have Mr. Thomas address our scholars, and we hope his message stays with them throughout life.”

Thomas kicked things off with an example about life. He had one student volunteer go to the back of the theater and another stand about midway down the aisle. He then offered $20 to whichever student reached him first. When the closer student won, Thomas told scholars this was an example of life in the real world.

“The reason why she won was because she had a head start. Other schools, other communities, they have a head start,” he said. “It’s not even that they are smarter, have more hustle, or have more greatness. We’re behind, and we’re still playing. We’re all the way in the back.”

Thomas told students it’s time to stop playing. 

“This has nothing to do with school; this has everything to do with the rest of your life,” he said. “Anything we try, we dominate. Whenever we put forth 100 percent effort, anything we touch turns to gold. I just need you all to try.”

The first thing he said he needed students to do was just show up to school and put in the effort — that means going to every class and doing every homework assignment.

“School is not a game or a joke for you. Someone in your family needs you to go to college and get a job so they can change their circumstance. We’re talking about getting your momma out of that neighborhood. You’re taking a test that’s about to change your life and your momma’s life. Take class seriously,” he said.

Thomas told the students that he hated school, yet he got a Ph.D. because he loves options.

“When you hate being told what to do, you have to get all the degrees and all the education,” he said. “We don’t have to like it, but we have to do it.”

He encouraged students to think about the people they care about. Those are the people you are coming to school for, he said.

Thomas shared the story of how his mother cried the day he was kicked out of school. He eventually got his GED and started college.

“I got my first degree when I was 30. When I graduated, my mom and grandmother drove over 700 miles to see me,” he said. “When I saw that look on her face, I got my masters. When I saw her smile, I said we’re doing this one more time, and I got my Ph.D.” 

Thomas asked students to think about who they want to see smiling at their graduation

“Get a picture of them on your phone, put one in your locker,” he suggested. “When people try to get you to act like a fool, you see them. You think my mom deserves to see me graduate. My mom deserves to see me in college.”

He warned students about getting distracted from their goals. 

“As soon as you have a goal, you need to execute it,” he said. “When you leave here, you need to know what the goal is.”

“When we make up our mind that we want to do something, we can’t be beat,” he said. “Let’s make the rest of our lives the best of our lives.”