Robert F. Smith’s Acceptance Speech at the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards
On October 26, 2023, Robert F. Smith delivered an acceptance speech at the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards. Smith recognized the many other outstanding individuals who received the award. In addition, Smith spoke about his childhood in Denver, CO, and how it inspired him to create windows of opportunity for others, especially in underserved communities. He praised the many often unrecognized Points of Light in his community who helped shape his life and many others.
The following is the video transcript starting at minute 2.05.
Well, thank you so much for that wonderful, warm and humbling introduction.
It is truly an honor to be named the George H. W. Bush Points of Light Award winner along with my co-winners. I’d like to congratulate the Loves. Where are you; I think you’re right here. The Taylors, of course; beautiful speech, mother and daughter. And Madam Secretary Rice, who I’ve long admired and who my father went to school with when they got their doctorate at Denver University.
As I think about this award, and as I was coming here, I thought about what is a Point of Light. I grew up in Denver, Colorado, in what is described as the other America. It’s an America where I actually felt loved every day. I lived in a beloved community, where the people in our community cared about me and the children in our community. And yes, I have to say my mother was a great inspiration, and I want to give her a round of applause for all the work she did.
She, of course, had a lot more work to do on my older brother than me. But when I think about the Points of Light, she being one, there were thousands of Points of Light in that beloved community. There was, I’m gonna give you names you’ve never heard, Janice Buckner, who taught the children how to play music, Homer Denny, who taught us about rocketry. We had people in our community who taught us to understand the importance of hard work and values. My Aunt Mabel, education.
I think about these people every day, about what they contributed. They were the unsung heroes of the everyday of our existence. They looked out for us when we came home from school to make sure that school ended at three, but our parents didn’t get out of work until five. And there were these women who took us into their homes, who educated us, gave us nutritious snacks. The older children taught the younger children. And when I look at those women, in those families, they were those Points of Light.
They did it without celebration. They did it without any reward outside of knowing that they were contributing to the essence of America. And the essence of America is a big heart. It is a strong community. It is a foundation of love and bound by education and opportunity. And the thing that I look at, that I can be best at, is to enable opportunity at scale.
My life changed through two internships. One at a place called Bell Labs. And I see George laughing over there because yeah, Neil was one of my other intern mentors. And one at a place called Amoco Production Company, with no other than Neil Bush.
What did they do for me? They provided a window into a world that we would not have seen in my community. Business, commerce, everyone in my neighborhood, they were small business people. They were at the Pullman Porters Union. They were educators; they were teachers, small contractors. They didn’t work at large corporations and were not able to enable a number of the kids in that community to see what American commerce and trade really looked like.
And so that’s why internships are so important. We built the internXL platform. We have over 23,000 STEM students from HBCUs and MSI organizations with over 400 corporate partners as part of that initiative to enable the opening of the window of opportunity. Because when you do that, you bring down the barriers of lack of understanding of each other, and you also create optimism and hope. And ultimately, you create a stronger fabric for an American community.
And so these Points of Light, there are people doing wonderful things. And I’m glad this is an organization that recognizes them. But, I will tell you, I’m going to accept this award on behalf of those men and women from my community, whose names you will never know, who made a huge difference in the hundreds of kids that came out of my America to become part of this other America.
So, I want to thank you all for this wonderful honor.