Aurora Council OKs $12,000 speaking fee for Graham
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2012 10:22PM
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:39AM
AURORA — The Council has voted: Stedman Graham will be speaking at area schools in February.
City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night to pay Stedman Graham, also known as Oprah Winfrey’s longtime boyfriend, $12,000 to speak at an African American History Program on Feb. 21. The measure was approved by a 10-1 vote, with Alderman Stephanie Kifowit, 3rd Ward, voting no.
Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, 7th Ward, will use her ward fund dollars to bring Graham to speak at Metea Valley High School in the Indian Prairie School District and Cowherd Middle School in the East Aurora School District.
Graham is a New York Times best-selling author. Books he has written include “Teens Can Make It Happen: Nine Steps to Success” and “Identity: Your Passport to Success.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, former aldermanic candidate Kevin Mathews said the speaking fee should be paid by a civic organization or a charity, not municipal government.
“I find it really hard to believe in a community of this size, we can’t find someone who can do this type of program — a measure of success who can ... excite them about their heritage,” Mathews said, pointing to Alderman Richard Irvin, At-large.
Hart-Burns said Irvin is always invited to speak at these sort of events and that Former Police Chief Bill Powell has also been invited to speak. But Graham’s story is a powerful one that speaks to teens and athletes, she said.
“Through his life struggle, having two handicapped brothers, (Graham) was not supposed to make it,” Hart-Burns said. “He wrote a book that says you can do it.”
Hart-Burns invited Mathews to attend the event.
Irvin, a lawyer, said he believes “good government makes sure that our children dare to dream.”
He said many young people in the city don’t have dreams.
“The average kid I’m talking to wants to be a rapper in a music video,” said Irvin. “The price of Stedman Graham coming to Aurora: $12,000. The value that it has to our children in urging them to dare to dream: priceless.”
Kifowit said she voted against the measure because “the price tag was a little high.”
“I didn’t know that much about it, but I didn’t feel like arguing tonight,” said Alderman Rick Lawrence, 4th Ward, who voted for the measure.
Graham is chairman and CEO of Stedman Graham & Associates, a Chicago-based management and marketing firm. He is also founder of Athletes Against Drugs, a former adjunct professor at the U of I-Chicago, and taught at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.