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Blake Strode’s
Advice for My Students

Blake StrodeAs UA’s chancellor I was involved in recruiting Blake Strode. I remember meeting with him and his mother in my office and doing my very best to convince him that the University of Arkansas was the best place for him. We offered Blake one of our most prestigious scholarships, a Bodenhamer Fellowship.

Blake was an outstanding student. He was also a very talented tennis player. After graduating, this All-American played tennis professionally for several years before attending Harvard’s law school.

With race-related events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri on his mind, following graduation from Harvard, Blake, an African American, chose to return home and work for ArchCity Defenders in St. Louis. He is now its Executive Director. ArchCity Defenders is a legal advocacy organization focused on communities of color.

Knowing how busy Blake was while serving as Executive Director for ArchCity Defenders, I was reluctant to impose on him by asking him to meet with my leadership class. However, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for students to view leadership through Blake’s eyes. So, I invited him to meet with the class during my final offering of the course. I should have acted much sooner. He captivated the class.

Among things Blake shared with students are the following.

  • “Ignorance is not an excuse for not doing the right thing.”
  • “Start with curiosity; start with questions, and really listen to the answers.”
  • “Give people the opportunity to tell their stories directly.”
  • “Good intent does not ensure impact will be as imagined.”
  • “Intent and impact are different.”
  • “Not everyone has common ground with you.”
  • “Don’t categorize people as ‘good eggs’ and ‘bad apples’.”
  • “Tell the truth, even when it’s not what people want to hear.”
  • “Keep your eye and keep your focus on truth telling.”
  • “Leaders must speak the truth in the face of resistance.”
  • “Shift the goal posts.”
  • “‘Shift the narrative’ through story telling.”
  • “Get the small things right, so you can focus on the big things.”
  • “I’ve not done anything perfectly.”
  • “No one person can create the change he wants to see.”
  • “There are no self-made people.”
  • “At the end of the day, people are people.”
  • “Treat people consistently.”
  • “Question conventional wisdom.”
  • “Avoid groupthink.”
  • Quoted Cornell West, “We are who we are because someone loved us.”

ArchCity Defenders is making a difference in St. Louis. The world needs more Blake Strodes. Go to to learn more about the organization.

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