Montel Williams tells Mids race problems must be resolved

January 11, 1994|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Television personality Montel Williams turned a homecoming speech at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, into a giant talk-show session. The topics: racism in America, leadership, and a taste of that tantalizing TV staple, the dating game.

"This is the most racist nation on the planet," the Baltimore-born speaker asserted Sunday night, striding talk show-style around Alumni Hall with a hand-held microphone.

He warned Midshipmen that unless the nation deals with hatred and ignorance, they could find themselves deployed onto the streets of America by the year 2000, dealing with racial strife at home rather than conflicts abroad.

"For anyone to sit here in 1994 and think that this country has fulfilled all of the objectives of its own Constitution, and to really believe that we are a colorblind society, you are crazy," said the former Navy officer, who graduated from the Academy in 1980 and served on active duty in intelligence activities for nine years.

Mr. Williams delivered the third Forrestal Lecture of the school term, part of a public program honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He urged the brigade of Midshipmen, sitting in uniform in Alumni Hall with several hundred civilians who also attended the program, to "Go back and make a difference. Try your best to change some attitudes and minds."

He also said his Navy experience, which included service during the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983, showed him that enemies do not care about the color of one's skin when they target Americans abroad.

He said the invitation to return to the Academy as a Forrestal Lecture speaker "is right straight to the heart, it's overwhelming." He recalled that he had considered brigade speeches such as his "another bore-estal lecture,".

but he said, "don't be like me [because] . . . I wasted some serious time here."

"I missed an opportunity," he said, noting that he had been satisfied being an average student.

Mr. Williams also briefly but distinctly touched upon the investigation of cheating at the Academy.

Recounting what he called "Montel's three Rs" -- restraint, responsibility and respect -- he brought a hush to the crowd when he asserted, "Some of you sitting in this room don't respect yourself enough to know that when you go to take an exam, or when you go in here for finals, that you should go in and do the work yourself."

The talk show host said that if someone had told him 15 years ago, when he attended Forrestal Lectures, that he would some day have a nationally syndicated talk show, "I would have said they're crazy and gone back to sleep."

He also asserted, in response to a question about how TV contributes to society, that "I think . . . I have done some of the most responsible shows on the air." And he said parents must monitor what their children watch. But he acknowledged the talk-show business is about entertainment -- and with that he put away his serious side to do some talk show business.

Turning to the Academy's superintendent, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, he said, "now the admiral said I can do this . . . I need seven hunks, Midshipman hunks who are single, and females are included in the hunk thing here."

As the Mids roared, he asked Brigade Commander Sean Fahey, a midshipman first class from Rockville, to pick seven classmates and three commissioned officers to come to New York next month for a taping of "The Montel Williams Show," seen in Baltimore at 3 p.m. weekdays, on WMAR (Channel 2).

Although he provided no details, he said the show will involve matchmaking among military personnel.

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