Bill Cosby did three things Friday at Ruskin High School that shows why he is the great Bill Cosby.
First off, his words hushed an auditorium packed with teenagers. Not many forces on the planet can do that.
Second, in talking to the several hundred students about kids killing kids, watching his own mother get beaten and young lives derailed by drugs and pregnancy, just as eyes widened and mouths hung open, he would say something that made the room jump with one mass belly laugh.
A master of comedic timing — whether with Fat Albert or lost hope.
Finally, Coz was probably the only guy in town Friday morning who could stand on stage at a school assembly and get away with saying “Bullshit” twice and the principal not bat an eye.
“Drug dealers are responsible for knocking a lot of black people off the road of life,” he told the students. “They’re responsible for the deaths of people who may have been the next Frederick Douglass or Phillis Wheatley. They say, ‘Well, if I don’t do it, somebody else will.’
“Bullshit — get an education. Get a job.”
And maybe there was a fourth thing that Cosby brought to his talk to students from several area schools. It’s possible that his message of study hard, stay in school, commitment, eat healthier, stop littering, show respect and stop making excuses will find its way to some young brains.
“Some of you have no idea what you can do,” he said. “Stop looking at other kids and getting mad because they’re passing you by.
“They’re passing you by because you’re sitting there watching. Go to the library. Read. Get up! This is your time! Stop blaming other people and get moving!”
Like them, when he was young he resented adults butting into his life, including a teacher he learned sometimes went to homes to talk to parents.
“She come to my house I’m gonna knock her out,” he said in his famous tough-boy voice.
The students will figure out, he told them, “that old folks keep coming at you to stop you from going where the bridge is out.”
Earlier, at a press conference with Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Cosby said something has to be done about black-on-black killings and the rapes of teenage girls.
The black community must come together to act, Cosby said.
“If the Ku Klux Klan was doing these rapes, we’d all get sticks and go out and protect our women and daughters,” Cosby said.
Friday’s event, presented by One Goal Consultants and sponsored in part by the City of Kansas City, also included a performance by speaker and singer Rashida Jolley, who rocked the Ruskin auditorium with the Alicia Keys hit “No One.” Even the mayor stood and waved his arms to the music.
The Ruskin drama department then performed an original skit about teens and the power of choices.
This line made the headliner smile:
“Where’d you get that stupid sweater — Bill Cosby’s trash can?”