By: Tonya Jackson
As the Senior Associate Dean in the Dean of Students Office at the University of West Florida, Dr. Lusharon Wiley wears many hats. She is the director of Case Management Services, the student ombudsperson, director of the Argo Pantry, and the founder and director of the Inclusion Spotlight. The Inclusion Spotlight gives Dr. Wiley the honor of bringing dynamic speakers to campus so all may learn from their lived experiences. On Tuesday, March 8th her featured speaker was Aaron Watson. Attorney Aaron Watson is the first African-American partner at the Levin Law Firm, and a few of his other titles include husband, motivational speaker, mentor, and a first class dreamer.
Dr. Wiley and her staff, office specialist Tonya Jackson; intern Jane Montovan, intern Toshia Johnson; student worker Cat Huang; and student assistant, Sarah Rowzee, worked for months to present a program that skillfully balanced entertainment with education. To assist in their efforts, Dr. Wiley brought together an eclectic group of partners including the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council; Phi Beta Sigma, Beta Beta Phi Chapter; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Nu Eta Chapter; the African American Student Association; Alumni Relations; the Civil Rights Research Lab; the Collegiate 100; the Department of Research and Advanced Studies; Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, International; and other UWF organizations. Some of those in attendance included Watson’s family and members of his church, Englewood Baptist Church; Civil Rights icon, Rev. H. K. Matthews; Lloyd Reshard of the Pensacola Network; Ellison Bennet, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; UWF Assistant Vice-President and Dean of Students, Dr. Brandon Frye; and UWF Vice-President of Student Affairs, Dr. Kevin Bailey.
The program began with members of the Sigmas, Zetas, and the featured speaker, Attorney Aaron Watson strolling into the Commons Auditorium before a crowd of nearly 300. The program included a greeting and an overview by Dr. Wiley; welcome by UWF President, Dr. Judy Bense; an overview of the UWF legal studies program by the Chair of the Legal Studies Program, Dr. Kimberly D. McCorkle; and an introduction of the speaker by Dr. Drucilla Washington-Thomas, Woodham Middle School.
Watson’s presentation “Calling All Dreamers” was motivational, inspiring, and educational. He shared that standing before the crowd and telling his story began as a dream of his, nearly fifteen years ago. “I’m lawyer. A lot of folks thought before they came here tonight I was gonna talk you about the law, which I’m not. I certainly have a doctorate in law, but I claim to be an expert in dreaming, I’m a professional dreamer. Before I was a lawyer, I had a dream that I would drive a Mercedes-Benz, I would have an office downtown that overlooks Pensacola Bay, I would recover millions and millions of dollars for my clients, particularly 12.6 million dollars this past year, I would have a beautiful wife that looks like Beyoncé, and I submit to you that I have all of that here today. Dreams do come true. I don’t say this to brag, but to motivate you. Dreams do come true.” Watson went on to share how dreams and fear don’t go together and that we have to defeat the bogey man, or fear, that is keeping us from fulfilling our dreams.
To help some of the dreamers in the audience, Watson shared his cell phone number and encouraged all to text him and share their dreams. He also offered to mentor them. His powerful message included several tips to help hard working dreamers succeed. And yes, hard work is one of those tips. Watson concluded by singing R. Kelly’s, “I Believe I Can Fly” and from the enthusiasm of some dreamers, they were ready to soar.