Robert Smith

Hometown: Plantation, FL

high school: Nova

college: Brown University

MAJOR: Gender and Sexuality Studies

GRAD. PROGRAM: University of Minnesota (PhD Candidate)

Halloween 1986 was shaping up to be like most other corporate-manufactured pseudo-holidays until, of course, Robert Joshuaway Smith III was born. Brought into the world by an amateur fashion model/insurance adjuster coached through labor by a witch-impersonating nurse, he was bound to be unique. And he did not disappoint.

For the eighteen years since that fall morning, Robert has been trying to change the world. W.E.B. DuBois wrote in “The Talented Tenth:” “The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.” At a young age, Robert pledged to become one of those men. He ranks in the top 10% of his competitive senior class and holds leadership positions in numerous organizations, including his school’s debate team, Key Club, National Honor Society, and Young Democrats. Robert is a National Achievement Finalist, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and earned a Degree of Superior Distinction from the National Forensic League for his accomplishments in speech and debate. He was also selected to attend the prestigious Telluride Association Summer Program in 2004.

Outside the classroom, he’s been affecting change the best way he knows how: through laughter. Though his mission began with inoculating his fellow first graders with cootie shots, today, his sights have turned to far more pressing issues--like Britney Spears. No, not the pop star’s voluptuous…intellect, but her prescient political observations. In a 2003 CNN interview, Ms. Spears pointed out a troubling trend among the American populace, the blind faith of many in the nation’s wartime leadership. “The only flaw in Spears’s logic,” he says, “was that she too advocated unquestioned loyalty to leaders of questionable motives.” He didn’t stage a protest against Britney’s latest single, however: He made fun of her. He was not déclassé or vulgar. Robert is a connoisseur of a different kind of humor. He is an activist comic.

Robert’s state championship-winning original oration on political apathy touched on everything from published voting statistics to network television series to future Nobel laureate Spears. There was no soapbox, only keen insight, airtight logic, and multiple bouts of laughing-induced apnea.

The most appealing aspect of Robert’s humor, aside from its overflowing intelligence and irresistible charm, is its subject. Comedy (in Robert’s case) was never meant to be idle. There is always a point--a thesis--something to keep you rolling around at night. His genuine concern for people and his impressive knowledge of America’s social ills unquestionably match his sense of humor. But whether addressing the shortcomings of organized religion, the consequences of urban decay or the political implications of the high-heeled shoe, conversations with Robert can make one vacillate from ecstatic laughter to solemn concern and interest.

Talks with Robert can educate, confuse, deconstruct, and redefine one’s own philosophies to the point that one wonders whether he deserves pay. The fact that he learns as much from such conversations probably prevents him from charging (though it could just as well be his conscience). Regardless of the monetary wealth that Robert might be denying himself, his presence undoubtedly enriches the lives of those around him. For this alone, those who surround him are extremely wealthy people.

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