Thursday, July 23 – Students Spend Day Four with Wes Moore, Admiral James Stavridis, and Alejandro Mayorkas

It’s hard to believe that we are over halfway through the 2020 Tour! Today was a busy day and we met with three incredible speakers – Robin Hood CEO Wes Moore, Former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO Admiral James Stavridis, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Wes, who grew up in Baltimore and the Bronx (both home to SEA member programs), spoke about his current work leading Robin Hood, one of the biggest anti-poverty forces in the country, his work as an author, and his passion for providing people with sustainable economic mobility. Sporting a shirt that read #MeantForMore, he reminded our students that they are meant for more and “have an opportunity to walk down whatever path fulfills” them. “The meeting made me realize how much my youth voice matters in today’s society especially with the issues currently going on right now,” says Jada, rising high school junior from Chicago’s MetroSquash. Throughout the conversation, our students asked questions of Wes about his bestselling book The Other Wes Moore, his perspective on the complex ties between race and class, and more. It was a pleasure to speak with Wes and hear his story.

We were grateful to have Admiral James Stavridis speak with our group again this year. Admiral Stavridis met with our students on last year’s Tour and gave a keynote address at our reception. He kicked off the meeting by showing off his old school squash racquet! He went on to give our students the following pieces of advice: to continue to stay active though playing squash and other sports, to be involved in public service, and to own their education, even when they’re no longer in school. Students asked the Admiral questions about the culture of the military, his experience being vetted as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, and relations between the U.S. and China. Admiral Stavirdis left us with some inspiring parting words — “a leader is a dealer in hope,” he said.

Our third and final meeting of the day was with Alejandro Mayorkas. Alejandro is Cuban-American and his family came to the U.S. as political refugees. He is a lawyer and served as the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. He’s currently a partner at WilmerHale. Alejandro and his wife Tanya hosted our group at their home on last year’s Tour. Tanya, who also has a background in law, joined in our conversation today as well. The Mayorkas’ spoke to our students about the importance of resolve, hard work, and education, and the variety of paths one can take to make a difference in the world. Our students had a lot of questions related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which Alejandro helped develop and implement during his time as the Director of the Department’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.The group also discussed the current wave of activism and the Black Lives Matter protests. 

“I enjoyed today’s meetings with Wes Moore, Admiral Stavridis, and Alejandro and Tanya Mayorkas, who all shared a common and true belief that the future is in the hands of the youth,” says Julissa of Capitol Squash. “We will definitely hold on to the words of advice that we received today, and we are so thankful to our speakers for their time and thoughts.”

“I am not only excited to see the new and last speakers but to see what will happen after the Citizenship Tour,” says Ivett, a Santa Barbara School of Squash student. “Will I have changed my mind? Will I have a new perspective?”

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