Motivational speaker Eric Thomas, who goes by “ET” and has been called the “hip-hop preacher,” is a viral sensation whose YouTube videos all garner around 250,000 views. Thomas’ personal struggles, including the absence of his biological father and having once been homeless, as well as his triumphs of graduating from college after 12 years and pursuing a Ph.D. in education administration from Michigan State University, resonate with young and old alike. Thomas is flown around the world speaking to everyone from Fortune 500 employees to professional athletes.
In between speaking engagements, Thomas made a stop last month at Vashon High School in St. Louis, where a reported 70 percent of the district’s students are reading below grade level, to speak to students for free, according to the Daily Mail. Thomas wanted to use his name and influence to help raise money for a group of students heading to Costa Rica.
He began talking about how sad he was on the drive over as he noted how many of the buildings he passed are all boarded up. He said how he used to be funny when he spoke, but how he doesn’t bother with jokes because the situation children are facing is serious.
Thomas’ speech took a turn when students that he’d asked to be quiet kept talking.
“Listen to me very closely. They pay me $50,000 to $100,000 when I speak to corporate America. I go to a basketball program and they pay me good. I ain’t getting a dime here. I’m here because I love you, but I’ll be darned if I come here for free and you disrespect me,” he told the students.
“I ain’t 20 years old. I ain’t 19 years old. I’m a grown man. I’m here because I love you. I’m here because I love y’all; they ain’t paid me a dime. As a matter of fact, I came to use my influence to raise money so a group of kids can go to Costa Rica. I’m not here to get nothing; I’m here to give you something. I’m not here to take nothing from you. I’m here to give you something.”
Read more at the Daily Mail.