From cradle-to-career
seeding success annual meeting: keynote by Steve Ballmer
by Duy Nguyen

This article is being brought to you by cityCURRENT, Get Involved & Power the GOOD!

What we know to be true .  .  .
We see it when the news comes on. At stoplights from our carseats. We see it when we walk down the street. It has become such an issue to where local organizations can put together presentation after presentation with figures connected to the poverty on our streets. Some organizations, looking at you Seeding Success, even print off the numbers and hang them from the ceiling at the Clayborn Temple for everyone to see.

If we want to disrupt generational poverty and, to put it very simply, improve the lives of everyone in our community we’ve got to look at our data and organize.

Seeding Success is looking for partners, interventions, investments, policies, and accountability systems to help reach their goals:

  • Every child is prepared for success in school
  • Every student is successful in school and graduates prepared for college, career, and success in life
  • Every youth who is not in school reconnects to education, training, or employment opportunities
  • Every young adult has access to a post-secondary opportunity or career

The Speakers

Mark Sturgis, Executive director, and his team put an annual event together to give a glimpse of what issues and barriers plague the youth of this city. I’ll keep it short, the numbers aren’t good but we have to start somewhere and defining the challenges that need attention, to the general public is nothing short of a direct call to action. Many of the members mentioned local entities they’ve partnered with in their talks. The organization firmly believes in collective impact, meaning organizations working together towards a common outcome can make a greater positive difference than alone. Looking into diverse professional and educational backgrounds of the Seeding Success team you notice right away, they are focused on doing good not only for, but with everyone.


Steve Ballmer was in the House
Former Microsoft CEO and current owner of the L.A Clippers took the stage and was confident a mic wasn’t needed to convey his energy to the crowd. First, acknowledging the efforts and commitment that Seeding Success and partners had put into their goals. He spoke on the “American Dream” an idea that sounds like common sense until we try to define it for ourselves. To Mr. Ballmer it was:

“Every kid born in the country has an opportunity to be better, do better, do more. If nothing else frankly to make more money than their parents.”


He gave himself the coolest presentation-slide award when clicking to an animated graph comparing the likely-hood of economic mobility differences for black boys and girls alongside their white counterparts when born into “poor” families. From the chart there wasn’t much difference in regards to moving from poor to middle-class. However, once we look at the chances for members of both groups getting into the “rich” category there is a magnitude of difference with white individuals being more likely to obtain a “rich” income level.
The Search for Equality
This was the crux of all of the data and efforts presented and discussed during the event, both on and off the stage. Organizations and teams involved made it clear that there shouldn’t be a difference in any data in regards to ethnic background in this country. They were here to make a difference.


The notion that everyone deserves an equal opportunity is not a new school of thought. It has been in the works for decades since the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968. The Clayborn Temple housed protesters with injuries and advocates with ideals, searching for equality. For centuries, in the stories told by the generations before.

“We mustn’t allow future generations to be able to experience first-hand any type of inequality, let alone imagine the pain it caused those who were brave enough to make a stand”

The Atmosphere

I’ve never been to the Clayborn Temple. I knew nothing of its history. Let’s just say my phone told me how to get there. Once inside you first notice the stained glass. If you’ve never see huge colorful windows, they were pretty cool. I think they would be cool even if I were some sort of elite stained glass connoisseur. You almost don’t notice how the walls are in disrepair or maybe parts of the floor showing signs of aging and neglect, but for being shutdown for almost two decades and reopening for about three years it was an inspiring venue. The music, by a selected group from The Memphis Jazz Workshop was icing on the cake. Jazz was in full swing by 1968 and even though I wasn’t around during that era those young gentlemen seemed to take me back to a place I had never been.


cityCURRENT is a privately-funded catalyst for the Mid-South and Middle Tennessee. A team of more than 100 partner companies have come together to host FREE events, along with an array of positive-oriented media and philanthropic initiatives to enrich, engage, and impact the community. Our mission is to #PowertheGOOD and we invite you to join with us


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