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Ten Questions with John Legend
 
Just in time for back to school, Grammy Award–winning artist and The RL Gang (part three) narrator John Legend discusses his most important work to date: fighting for education reform through the Show Me Campaign, which gives a voice to millions of children who lack access to a good education.
1. What is the Show Me Campaign?

The Show Me Campaign is a nonprofit organization I created in 2007 to fight poverty using proven solutions. Believing that equal access to quality education is the civil rights issue of our time, Show Me advocates for education reform in the US. In Africa, we work with Millennium Promise to provide clean water, health care, education and other basic tools that combat poverty.

2. What was it that inspired you to start the charity?

A few years back, I read a book called The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs and was deeply moved. When Jeff invited me to join him on a trip to Africa to see Millennium Promise’s work firsthand, I jumped at the chance. For the first time, I witnessed what it’s like to live on less than a dollar a day in real human terms and I simply couldn’t accept that as the way it has to be. That experience inspired me to start the Show Me Campaign to fight poverty at home and abroad.

"For the first time, I witnessed what it’s like to live on less than a dollar a day in real human terms and I simply couldn’t accept that as the way it haD to be."

Ten Questions with John Legend
 
3. Why is education so important, in your opinion?

Education is the best tool available to help break the cycle of poverty. Giving a child a good education opens the door to a bright future. I know firsthand the power of a quality education: it changed my life and can do the same for millions of children across the US. That said, we have a lot of work to do. Internationally, the US ranks 32nd in reading scores, 35th in math and 29th in science, despite spending more per student than any other country in the world. We also face a massive achievement gap, with low-income minority children falling far behind their peers. The Show Me Campaign aims to fix our broken educational system and ensure that all children have access to a great education, no matter where they grow up.

4. What are some of your favorite moments that you’ve experienced through the Show Me Campaign?

Through the Show Me Campaign, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of great schools and see some amazing educators in action. I like talking to the people who are working in schools every day to help kids realize their full potential. And I like meeting students to find out what interests them and what kind of people they aspire to be. Their stories inspire me to keep fighting for the kids who aren't in great schools, but deserve to be.

Ten Questions with John Legend

"The Show Me Campaign aims to fix our broken educational system and ensure that all children have access to a great education, no matter where they grow up."

Ten Questions with John Legend
 
5. What have been the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge recently has been advocating continued investment in our education system in an era of budget cuts. It's surprisingly difficult to convince people that cutting funding to schools is incredibly short–sighted. The future of our country depends on how we educate our kids–we can't afford not to invest in them.

Ten Questions with John Legend
 
6. Why did you decide to partner with Ralph Lauren on the RL Gang series?

Ralph Lauren does a lot of great work to benefit children, particularly in the area of education. They're a natural partner given our mutual interest in that issue and are generously donating a portion of the proceeds from The RL Gang's sales to support the Show Me Campaign's work to improve our educational system.

7. Have you ever done a children’s book project before?

No, this is my first time, but it's been a really good experience. I had a lot of fun recording the story and that shines through on the track. I think kids are going to get excited about this story.

Ten Questions with John Legend
 

8. Why do you find working with children so gratifying?

Working with kids is really inspiring. They have so much spirit and such amazing aspirations. It feels great to give them the resources and attention they need to thrive. No investment of time or money is more worthwhile.

9. What or who, has been your personal inspiration?

The people I have met along the way from students and parents to leaders working to improve our education system motivate me to keep pushing for a better future for our kids. Musically, Stevie Wonder is my main inspiration, but Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Jeff Buckley and the Beatles have all influenced my work.

10. What’s next for you as an artist?

I'm just finishing up my summer tour with Sade this September. After that, I'll be getting back in the studio with Kanye West to finish my next album, which should drop in summer 2012.

 

All images Courtesy of John Legend and the Show Me Campaign

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