juliayarboughweb.gifBarack Obama. The 44th President of the United States! Music to our ears!

In the final weeks of the hard-fought campaign to put the first African-American into the White House, there was a great deal of talk from the McCain-Palin camp, claiming Obama’s tax plan would be “spreading the wealth” or “redistributing wealth.”

I wonder, how much could our society improve if “wealth” was actually “knowledge?” Would spreading it around improve the world we live in?

That thought coincided with a recent visit to my alma mater,  The University of California at Santa Barbara.  It’s a beautiful campus perched atop a cliff along the
California coast, two hours north of Los Angeles. I graduated in 1987 and at the time, I was one of only a handful of African-American students on a predominantly Anglo campus. As only the second person in my family to attend college, I was navigating in foreign territory.

During my four years there, I received a great deal of support from the campus organization named the Equal Opportunity Program – E.O.P.  It offered free counseling, tutoring sessions and social programs. It was a safety net, of sorts; to help make sure the few students of color on campus did not fail. The program, counselors and my friends became my lifeline through college.

Roll the calendar forward TWENTY years! I reconnected with my campus to attend the 5th Annual Black Family Weekend designed to bring alumni, faculty and staff together with students and parents to share our life and career experiences. Two decades have brought about amazing changes at U.C.S.B. Growth and a host of new programs for students and, most importantly, this year the largest enrollment of African-American students to date!

As I spoke to the students about my journey, I made the connection to “spreading the wealth/knowledge.” It occurred to me that part of being successful is the willingness to give back. To reach out and help someone who is perhaps a few steps behind you. Would I have succeeded had someone not helped me?  Because of that assistance, I am now an independent, contributing member of society capable of helping others. 

Because I can now help the next generation of students, they will be more likely to succeed. Then the process repeats. Think about it: When more people do well, EVERYONE benefits.

I am now more hopeful than ever that our nation, under the guidance of Barack Obama, will embrace and see the value of “spreading the wealth/knowledge.”

Julia Yarbough, a news anchor at NBC 6, writes periodically on her outdoor and other adventures.