As he speaks on behalf of the less fortunate, his personality and passion makes everyone in the room believe he too, was once in the same predicament. Then, very humbly, he admits he has lived a life of privilege.
Michael Skolnik was raised in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Westchester, NY. Even though his life was better than average, he can’t help but feel a need to give back and fight those who maybe can’t.
“If I don’t fight for those same rights for everybody in this country, then my life is pretty much worthless,” Skolnik told the Grio news.
During his career, he has gone from an award winning filmmaker, to an editor, a writer and now he is most known as a civil rights activist. Skolnik has been labeled a contemporary civil rights leader and has become a leader for the younger generation.
Former Castleton student Molly DeMellier had the privilege of seeing Skolnik speak in New York City at a media conference and she said she the opportunity to see him again would be worthwhile.
“Michael was fascinating. He captured our attention on a controversial subject without making it feel over done. He was engaging and informative on that ways every person can make a difference,” she said.
She wasn’t the only one who got the chance to see Skolnik in action.
“I think he’s a great contemporary motivational speaker and his stories of civil rights just resonate with people and leave them with a sense of humility,” senior Andrew Cremins said.
Skolnik will be coming to Vermont to speak in front of Castleton students at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26 in the Casella Theater. Professor David Blow who is in charge of bringing a select number of journalism students to the conference in spring, loved watching Skolnik speak so much he wanted to share this experience with the rest of the student population at Castleton.
What really intrigued Blow the most was that this white Jewish man is championing the cause of African Americans. Everyone, Blow believes, should hear the stories and experiences Skolnik brings to the table.
“I just thought he was riveting. When you look around and students aren’t texting, that’s the sign of a good speaker,” said Blow. “I thought his presence was casual and fun and everything a speaker should be and I really think they would learn from him.”
Skolnik earned a national spotlight when he wrote about Trayvon Martin, a black teen who was killed in Florida. He wrote a story called "White people, you will never look suspicious like Trayvon Martin.” He also started a "He Has a Name" campaign trying to give the same attention to murdered black children that murdered white children receive.
Blow strongly believes this performance will not be something you want to miss and his journalism students can attest to that.
“I think he’ll bring a better sense of cultural reality to Castleton. There are a lot of people who haven’t been exposed to a lot and it’s hard to sympathize about something when you haven’t been around it,” Cremins said.