The Washington Post

William Raspberry: A mentor, even from afar

Maybe it’s a sentiment that occurs within every generation: the feeling that you aren’t ready to take up the life’s work of the leaders you have so long admired.

When greats like William Raspberry die it feels almost as if no one can fill the void that is left. Who will speak truth to power when it’s the right but unpopular thing to do? Who will remind us that every child has the capacity to be a sound and beneficial citizen with the right support? Who will speak for the “cabbie” who represents every man with no time to be his own voice?

William Raspberry attending the Raspberry Roast at the Washington Post in Washington, D.C. on June 26, 2012. In recognition of Raspberry’s accomplishments. (Marvin Joseph/THE WASHINGTON POST)

I first met Mr. Raspberry at our Leadership Conference in 2002 He reminded us that even if we were 18 years old, we brought a wealth of experience that was just as valuable in society as his many years of experience.

He encouraged us to not only use our voices but reminded us that it was necessary to hear them. Because of Mr. Raspberry's wisdom, I continue to realize my value in society. Working as an attorney and strategist of philanthropic causes, I aim to promote efficiency and build key partnerships to organizations, like the Ron Brown Scholar Program, that give voice to so many people in need and issues that need to be addressed.

My story is not different from the other nearly 300 Ron Brown Scholars throughout the world who have benefited from Mr. Raspberry’s insight. And I like to believe that Mr. Raspberry believed in us and our program because we were proof of his theory.

Once I did learn of his touching approach to mentorship, I needed to learn more and continued to follow his many opinion pieces through the Washington Post. His life’s trailblazing work awed me from a distance and when my fellow scholars and I had the opportunity to meet with and learn from him directly, the insight was priceless. His keen ability to never waver from his stance on what is right in America whether or not his thoughts were popular or appropriately aligned with political tags was a personal trait that cannot be taught but should always be aspired towards. His mentorship through his column, speeches and conversations will be used to direct the nation’s moral code long after his passing Tuesday.

Because Mr. Raspberry was so rich in thought and touched the lives of so many, it is necessary to say thank you in words but also through action. I know this first hand: I lost my mother to cancer seven years ago and mentors have proven to be a more than necessary alternative when parenting is not available. Mr. Raspberry served as a mentor to so many, and I hope his life encourages others to support the innate potential that all young people possess.

I especially hope it encourages those in the Ron Brown Scholars program to become mentors to even younger generations to share the teachings of greats like Mr. Raspberry and encourage independent thinking in our young people. In his passing, I believe he has also passed the baton of leadership onto our generation. So as daunting as it may be to even begin to think of stepping into the shoes of the likes of Mr. Raspberry, the reality is that we must answer the call. We are no longer the next generation; we are the generation responsible for teaching the next generation. It is time.

So, in honor of Mr. Raspberry, his work, his unyielding thoughtfulness and longstanding dedication to ensuring that the United States had a voice that encouraged fairness and equity for all, I implore my fellow Ron Brown Scholars to take up the charge of ensuring that mentorship is an integral part of our personal legacies.

We thank you for your life, Mr. Raspberry.

D.A. Lovell works as an attorney and strategist for philanthropic causes. She is a 2002 Ron Brown Scholar residing in Washington, DC. You can follow her on twitter @dalovalova or follow the Ron Brown Scholar Program @ronbrownscholar .

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