Will.i.am wrote this article for the Huffington Post.
Close your eyes and think about today. Think about the United States of America. Think about the state of education. Think about the state of job creation. Think about the state of mind we are in. Think about what our country might look like in 20 years. Now think about and wonder why and who and when and what it's going to take for Detroit not to turn into a slum. What is it going to take for my niece and her friends to have the best education? And your nephew to graduate and not just get a job, but have a career?
I'm writing this on my laptop and you're probably reading it on your phone or tablet, and none of the stuff we are actually buying "regardless" of a recession is made in America. Technology is recession proof and most kids are not dreaming of being programmers, scientists or engineers. The ones that are, do not get the spotlight or attention. Instead, they are looked at as geeks or uncool, when in actuality technology is the only thing that is cool today. iPhones, Android devices, Facebook, Twitter (all tech), all exciting. This is why I put my own money, passion and time to take Dean Kamen's FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and turn it into a back-to-school TV special.
Dean Kamen invited me to visit his office at DEKA Research and to also attend a FIRST gathering of high school kids who get together to build robots. Who knew there was an international competition of teenage robot builders? After meeting Dean and these kids, I saw the promise that these bright young minds. I am convinced that the 13 year-olds building robots and competing at FIRST will be the business and tech leaders of tomorrow. I am convinced these kids will invent new medical devices, communications and consumer electronics gear, rockets, renewable energy sources and high mileage cars -- the things that can help America better compete in a global economy.
You've probably noticed that it is "back-to-school" season and families are gearing up to send their kids back in to classrooms. The backpacks, lunch kits, clothes and school supplies are essential. But the most important back-to-school item on every family's checklist does not come in a package or have a price tag.
This is the gift of curiosity for students to learn and explore. Encouragement and positive reinforcement from parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors and friends is what it takes to spark this curiosity.
I created the i.am.scholarship that includes high school academic mentoring with the i.am.scholarship College Track program. I'm also a co-founder and supporter of the Peapod Foundation with The Black Eyed Peas. These academic and creative scholarship support programs are young and growing, but are not yet able to reach every student that needs encouragement and support. That's why I teamed up with Dean Kamen to produce my back-to-school TV special, "i.am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll" that will air on Sunday August 14th on ABC 7pm|6pm central time.
This TV special is part of my paying it forward plan, and a way to thank the people who helped spark my curiosity to do well in school, including my Mom and my uncles. I want to share my excitement about technology and science with as many students as possible and to show that it can be creative and cool.
For every person who took my first phone call or answered my email and good things happened, this is another reason to do a good deed for someone else. All those school basketball courts could be shared to host local FIRST club activities.
The theory is simple -- if entertainers perform in programs like the Teen Choice Awards, then why can't we do it for our kids who get good grades? You would be amazed to see how many people thought kids and robotics weren't important. It's amazing how many non-believers there are in the world, and I realized why America is in a weird state -- a divided state. A state of dysfunction. A state of what the fuck. It's like people don't want to take real risks. So I took a risk. I stand to lose a lot of my own dollars to make this show. I didn't do it to make money. I did it to make change. I called ABC myself and bought air time. Sometimes you have to take risks and just do it, so I did it and I am proud of this show and everyone who helped me.
Debt ceilings, unemployment rates -- this stuff I don't understand and I probably never will understand it. Just like how I don't understand why we can't create new jobs in America. Why can't the youth get better education? Why is it that every school, public and private, in good neighborhoods and bad has a busy basketball court while the majority of its students are underperforming in math and science skills? It makes me really sad and angry to know that the U.S. ranks 25th out of 34 places in high school math skills.
I feel obligated as an American citizen to do this work. I'm the guy that made the "Yes We Can" video, so this is my part of the "we" in the "Yes We Can," concept. I'm doing my part and so are these kids and parents that are a part Dean Kamen's FIRST. These kids are amazing. They are dedicated to math, science, engineering, technology. These kids are our Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants and our team is losing right now. If we don't acknowledge them and support them, they might not want to play for our American team when they graduate from college. They probably won't create jobs in America with the technology they invent.
If we support the troops, we have to support our scientists, engineers, programmers, code writers and geniuses. I believe solving our debt ceiling is job creation, but what do I know? I'm just a rapper.
Please watch my "i.am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll" back-to-school special on August 14th and support people doing their part to get America back on its feet.
Follow Will.i.am on Twitter: www.twitter.com/iamwill