LOWER OXFORD -- Actor, comedian and philanthropist Bill Cosby had his audience in laughter for more than an hour on Saturday as made a pitch for academic fund-raising at The Lincoln University. Sitting by himself in a chair onstage at the International Cultural Center, he presented his views of poverty, God, family and human achievement, throwing in the suggestion that alumni reach in the pockets for contributions.
Cosby, well known for his television series “The Cosby Show” and his advocacy of education, was on campus to plug the Students First scholarship campaign, of which he is the chair. Lincoln President Robert Jennings said after the show that although Cosby is not a graduate of the college in the traditional sense, that he has been so supportive he was made an honorary alumnus.
Wearing a Lincoln sweatshirt and baseball cap, Cosby said, “I love this school.”
Cosby, who grew up in poverty in North Philadelphia, reinforced that support by hearkening back to his youth, when, at 15 years old, he accompanied his two friends “out to the country” to visit Lincoln for a basketball game.
He said it was the early days of the NBA and he was impressed but somewhat confused as he saw all those black men running up and down the court and women in the stands singing “Give Me That Old Lincoln Spirit” – a song he at learned in church as “Give Me That Old Time Religion.”
He began his banter at the start of his show with the announcement that he had received information about the microphone that he would be wearing. Unfortunately, it said he would wear it on his left ear, but the diagram showed the right ear, a mistake he considered rather stupid.
“Don’t say it’s because it’s a black college. Some white colleges get it wrong, too,” he said.
A theme that ran through must of his show was insistence that students must develop independence and stop asking for others to take care of them.
“People depend too much on God,” he said. “If Jesus showed up today, they’d ask him for favors.”
He used as an example some resident of modern society running up to Jesus and asking him to cure his high blood pressure.
“Jesus said,’ I can cure you. Stop eating salt.’”
With that the patient takes issue with the advice and says he’s disappointed with Jesus. And Jesus answers, “Wait ‘til you meet my father.”
On academics, Cosby told his audience not to cut corners; getting a C in a course is not enough.
He asked how many would like to have the doctor about to perform surgery on them say that he’s 74 percent sure of what he’s doing.
“This is college. These professors put themselves out day in and day out to give you that information. First respect Lincoln,” he said.
He went on at great length about poverty saying he did not understand the expression, “We were poor and didn’t know it.”
“How can you not know you’re poor?” he asked, citing hilarious but poignant examples of living in need.
He then said the way to escape poverty is “Education, education, education.”
“But it’s not going to work without money, money, money.”
Returning to his theme of dependence he said, “We are so victim oriented that we forget how much we receive. You came out here because if you work it opens (your future). Nothing gives you a better high than studying and knowing your stuff when you go in for a test.”
“Talk to your friends. Tell them to give money to Lincoln,” he said.
At the end of his show, he was joined by Jennings and University Board of Trustees Chairman Kimberly Lloyd.
Jennings said the goal for the Students First campaign is to raise $10 million with the goal of attracting “the best and the brightest” students as well as providing need-based assistance, inasmuch as 91 percent of the student body is on financial aid.
He thanked Cosby and reiterated that the comedian had helped many times when Jennings requested his assistance.