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No Debate: Stephen A. Smith speaks to Pitt students at WPU

ESPN+talk+show+host+Stephen+A.+Smith+spoke+to+Pitt+students+at+the+William+Pitt+Union+Assemlby+Room+for+about+an+hour+Wednesday+night.+John+Hamilton+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer
ESPN talk show host Stephen A. Smith spoke to Pitt students at the William Pitt Union Assemlby Room for about an hour Wednesday night. John Hamilton | Senior Staff Photographer

ESPN talk show host Stephen A. Smith spoke to Pitt students at the William Pitt Union Assemlby Room for about an hour Wednesday night. John Hamilton | Senior Staff Photographer

ESPN talk show host Stephen A. Smith spoke to Pitt students at the William Pitt Union Assemlby Room for about an hour Wednesday night. John Hamilton | Senior Staff Photographer

By Ted Zhang | Staff Writer

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For one night, the William Pitt Union Assembly Room became a hotbed for hot takes when Pitt Program Council hosted “An Evening with Stephen A. Smith.”

Smith is one of television’s most recognizable personalities, perhaps best known as a co-host on the ESPN2 morning talk show “First Take.” He is also a regular guest on SportsCenter and used to host his own show on ESPN2, “Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith.”

The outspoken commentator talked for about an hour Wednesday night to Pitt students about finding a passion, developing a craft and working toward a career.

He also offered a few of his infamous opinions in a back-and-forth with the audience members, including reiterating his stance on Kevin Durant’s controversial offseason team change.

The ESPN host started the evening with addressing the idea of being politically correct. He didn’t believe in the notion that people should refrain from speaking how they truly felt. Promptly following his claim, Smith broke the ice by making a few jabs at past co-worker Skip Bayless and current fellow debater Max Kellerman.  

Smith addressed issues about the current political climate as well as his road to stardom. Smith grew up in the Hollis section of Queens in New York City. He divulged to the audience about his early childhood struggles with dyslexia.

In both first and fourth grade, Smith had to do remedial work to move on to the next grade. When he was nine, he had to repeat fourth grade because he was still reading at a first grade level. Smith recounts his stories about being bullied and notes it as his inspiration to improve himself.

“I remember every dude that laughed and made fun of me when I got left behind,” Smith said. “I was left behind twice.”

He worked hard and strived for success, even if it meant stepping over a few people. During the course of the talk, he listed off the names of all the kids that made fun of him for being held back. He vowed to never let people ridicule him again.

“You will despise me before you ever laugh at me,” Smith said.

Smith harnessed the negativity and used it as fuel to empower himself. He began working on his dyslexia and would read anything that he could get his hands on. Of what he read, Smith enjoyed sports books the most and found himself unable to put them down.

“From sports I learned to read better,” Smith said.

From then on, the ESPN host never looked back. For Smith, actor Denzel Washington was a major force in helping to guide the First Take host when he initially became a media personality.

“Denzel, a dear friend and mentor told me, ‘You do what you have to do to do what you want to do,’” Smith said.

Smith adopted the mantra of not letting anyone get in his way and has carried it with him on his road to success. He reflected on past experiences and imparted that belief to motivate others to find their own success.

“I had that when I was sitting there in your seats,” Smith said. “I’m not saying I have it now, but it’s what I had to get to where I am today.”

In the middle of his seminar, Smith asked the audience to raise their hands if they had a friend they were sitting next to. Almost everyone in the audience raised their hands. Smith surveyed the population and delivered his insight on the true nature of friendship.

“You have no friends, everyone is your competitor,” Smith said. “You might care for that person, you might even like them a little. But they aren’t your friends.”

Smith admits he might be exaggerating a bit, but he truly believes the people that come and go in one’s life can be major factors or minor players.

“There are some people that are anchors in your life and they have to go,” Smith said.

After cautioning the audience to the dangers of friendship, Smith diverged into the college system. He proclaims that getting a college education isn’t about the grades –– the goal is for students to come out with a craft. He advises students to find their passion and work towards it.

Smith wrapped up his talk with a question and answer section. The audience’s questions were mostly playful. Some poked fun at Smith’s love for LeBron James, while others asked for his opinion on hot topics in sports, such as the upcoming football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.

Smith entertained most of the questions, but the main takeaway from the event was his message to students.

“To the victor goes the spoils,” Smith said. “For those who perform, they will get the reward. And those that don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

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No Debate: Stephen A. Smith speaks to Pitt students at WPU