Lamar Hylton inspires power in partnership at annual Bowman Breakfast

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Grace Springer

Lamar Hylton delivers the featured speech at the annual Bowman Breakfast. He discussed the importance of partnership between the city of Kent and the University.

Grace Springer, Reporter

Two hundred attendees from the city of Kent and Kent State University reflected on their partnership over coffee and eggs at this semester’s Bowman Breakfast.

Michelle Hartman, the interim executive director of the Kent area Chamber of Commerce, gave opening remarks reflecting on the Bowman Breakfast tradition.

“The Bowman Breakfast first began on July 11, 1963 in an effort to improve communication and to foster a successful collaboration between our city and our university,” she said. “We are grateful to be here this morning to carry on this town and gown tradition after 59 years.”

Kent State’s senior vice president for student affairs, Lamar Hylton, gave the featured speech at this semester’s event.

Hylton reflected on the importance of collaboration between the city and university and stressed the values of acceptance and belonging.

He began his speech with an anecdote from the TV show “Abbott Elementary.” He summarized an episode where the character Jacob wants to perform a comedy show, but he is discouraged by a coworker who tells him he is too corny and over-the-top and should not perform. His friends in the show tell him to perform anyway, and accept him as he is.

Hylton tied this episode back to acceptance and belonging at Kent State and in the Kent community.

“What struck me most about this episode was the power that communities have on deepening a meaningful sense of belonging for people,” he said. “Belonging doesn’t just happen.”

Hylton went on to tell the story of Randy, a boy who struggled in high school, graduating with barely a 2.0 grade point average. Many people in Randy’s life thought he was destined for nothing, but one teacher could see he was gifted in the arts, encouraged him and said college was in his future. Randy went to college and found more people that created a sense of belonging for him.

“Each of us can change the trajectory of someone’s life, but there must be intentionality behind our efforts,” Hylton said. “We are called to utilize our collective power to uplift and to affirm the identities and lived experiences of those around us.”

He then revealed the story of Randy was the true story of a young Lamar Hylton.

“I tell you that to show you that I am the embodiment of what a community approach to belonging looks like,” he said. “I am living proof of just how limitless the possibilities are when you have a community working in harmony with one another, and so I’m fired up and ready to go ya’ll.”

Hylton concluded the speech by reaffirming his dedication to creating community for students at Kent State and encouraging others to do the same.

“I’m ready to continue transforming this place we love called Kent, Ohio and Kent State University,” he said. “And I’m ready to do so locking arms with each one of you.”

Grace Springer is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]