FAIRFIELD — High school students heard Friday that their generation is sometimes described as the most selfish and lazy of all time, with a future of living at their parents’ home until they’re 30 – a fate professional skateboarder Mike Smith, 31, said doesn’t have to be theirs.
Smith, speaking to Fairfield High School students in the school gym, said he’s heard the critical description of their generation but doesn’t buy it.
“Every one of you,” Smith said, “wants to do big things.”
Nobody – not you, not your teachers – dreams of being average, he said.
“You all want to be incredible,” the skateboarder said.
Smith, who works with companies including Nike, Red Bull and GoPro, spoke about growing up in Rapid City, S.D. – one of the poorest places in America and where his parents said they couldn’t buy him a skateboard.
“You think it is hard in Fairfield,” he told students, and spoke about growing up in a small town and a broken home.
After six months, he had enough money to buy a blue skateboard with orange wheels, said Smith, recalling the day as the biggest in his life.
But as a 17-year-old, “I hated everything about who I was.” Smith recalled seeing a freshman special needs student at his high school – and, after walking past the youth, deciding to do everything he could to help him.
Smith and other students taught him to play golf and 300-pound linemen from the high school football team responded if anyone bullied the youth.
The professional skateboarder recalled living in a small farm town without any homeless people and discovering scores of people on the street when he went to college.
He asked one man what he needed. Socks, answered the homeless man, who had banged-up feet and toenails that were black. Smith went back to the college, where he played basketball and grabbed every sock he could.
“I made it rain tube socks,” said Smith, who spoke about helping the homeless for the next four years of college.
The most important tattoo he has – other than his wedding ring – is one that reads “Speak for the silent. Stand for the broken,” said Smith.
Every one of you, he told students, gets haters and doubters. Smith said such people are little bugs on his windshield that he wipes away – and then keeps on going.
“What’s your legacy going to be?” he asked students. “What are they going to say about you?”
Andrea Berber, a freshman at Fairfield High, said after Smith’s talk: “It gave me a better outlook on my future.”
“I can do things,” she said.
Monica Ramirez, 15, called the talk inspiring – particularly his message about not letting doubters define you.
“He’s completely right,” she said.
Shari Patterson, a history teacher at Fairfield High School, said Smith gives students a way to see themselves with a future.
“He speaks their language,” she said.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.