Common: “Everyone is destined for greatness”

Shah (Yuqing Xia) / Photo Editor

Shah (Yuqing Xia) / Photo Editor

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Common started his Great Issues Committee Speech the same way he started his career – with a little bit of free style.
His speech was about greatness – the greatness he learned to find in himself and the greatness that is in everyone.

Shah (Yuqing Xia) / Photo Editor

“I wanted to be great,” Common said. “I wanted to have greatness in me, revolving around greatness, expressing greatness and letting greatness just be a part of me in all that I do. Well, that word greatness became a powerful word in my life because greatness is something you achieve in your life with your goals and what your goals are.”
Common attested that everyone has a path they must find, believe in and live.  He found his path after hearing the story of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy who was murdered in the south in 1955 after he whistled at a white woman, but that is not when he learned his purpose. Instead, he found it in a dark tunnel under the Chicago Bulls Stadium.
“When I was twelve, I was a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls. I would have to travel under the stadium in this tunnel to take the equipment from the visiting lockers back to the home team locker room,” Common said. “After I found out the story of Emmett Till, ever since that point I would run through the tunnel because I was scared the ghost of Emmett Till was down there.”
He ran through the tunnel as fast as he could for several games, until one night he decided to stop running and face his fear.
“I stopped and decided to be the black guy in the scary movie and get tough, like ‘What’s up.’ I’m feeling something here but what is it,” Common said. “I felt this spirit there, and it was the spirit of Emmett Till right here with me, and it was saying, ‘There is something great in you. You have something great to contribute to this world, greater than you ever imagined.’”
After that, Common began to find other calls to be great, learning that with good effort, anything is possible.
“When you find what your path is, it’s not really work to you,” Common said. “You may have to work at it, but its not really work. You love it, you feel it in your soul, wake up in the morning like yeah, I’m going to go do this.”
Around this time, Common wrote his first rap, a medium he came to learn was the right way to make his voice heard. He warned that even when you find your path, there will always be some doubt, whether it’s from yourself or from others.
That’s why Common’s second part of achieving greatness is belief.
“Your path is your path and no one can tell you what your path is,” Common said. “And once you’ve found your path, it will resonate with you and you will know it and you will walk down it.”
This revelation came to him after a break up with a girlfriend. He finally understood that he had been playing second fiddle in too many aspects of his life.
He attested that everyone in the world has a light and that it is their God-given purpose to let that light shine.
Despite the power Common attributed to belief, he acknowledged that the path to greatness is not without disappointments. When he was nominated for several Grammys in 2006, he sincerely believed he would win, but he walked away empty handed.
“I believed I was going to get those Grammys, and next year I came back, and I actually did get one of those Grammys,” Common said. “But at the time I didn’t get the Grammys I believed I was going to get. Sometimes, when you believe, not everything is going happen right then and there. That’s why you have to live your path.”
Common’s third step to greatness is to live the path you found and believed in. He stated that everyone will face challenges and difficult experiences on the way to greatness, but those are there for you to learn and grow.
“You have to turn obstacles into possibilities,” Common said. “That means if a situation comes in that might seem crazy, it might seem like you don’t understand why, but it is there for you to become a better person.”
Everyone, in his opinion, is destined for greatness, and his message seemed to resonate with the 900 people who attended the GIC event.
“I loved it,” sophomore Paul Brown said. “The best part was about letting your light shine and not letting yourself fall in the shadow of others.”