Make It Over the Mountain: Video Transcript

Wil Haygood (Urban Studies major, Miami, 1976) [journalist at The Washington Post]: With the simple fact that when I left Miami with my liberal arts degree, I had this foundation underneath me to keep reading, to stay curious, to want to delve into various aspects of American society. So I think that the liberal arts degree supplied me with a broad spectrum in which to learn, in which to pull from a variety of disciplines. I think that's what a liberal arts degree gave me.

Writing in so many ways has not only saved my life but enriched it. And I think because it's enabled me to meet both the high and mighty, the humble and unknown. It's enabled me to meet the likes of Nelson Mandela, when he walked out of prison in South Africa, the senator from Chicago, Barack Obama. I covered parts of his campaign, I saw him up close, he becomes the president. This unknown butler in Washington, DC who people didn't know about, Eugene Allen, who worked for eight presidents and hadn't been written about. It's also enabled me to unravel some of the mysteries of my own family. I wrote a book that was as much about a city as it was about family dynamics. And so writing has been the raft that I have gone down the river of life on.

Miami gave me my first great, epic success story in life. Nobody had ever gone to college; I really wanted to go to college. I didn't want to start college and not finish. And so the goal, the big rocky mountain in front of me was I knew I was starting at the foot of the mountain, and I had to get over the peak, so that my nieces and nephews or younger cousins could look back and say, "Wil started down there at the base of the mountain, and he made it over." So if he made it over, then there's no longer this curse in the family that people have to go be a waiter, or work in a factory. They can get jobs that reflect the fact that they've gone to college. So that was a big, big goal. It was the tallest goal, up until I stepped on campus, that I had ever set out to meet in life. It was this mountain that was Miami University and I had to get over it and I did.

[March 2014]