Billy Cosby, one of America's favorite father-figures, embodied the theme of Jacksonville's two-day education summit, "Increasing Parental Involvement."
The 75-year-old comedian and education activist spoke to a full house at The Florida Theatre Feb. 28 on behalf of Mayor Alvin Brown. Action News co-anchor Mark Spain hosted the event, which began with a drum line competition between four Duval County Public Schools — an idea from Cosby.
“Nothing bothers me more than hearing, ‘We don't have good schools in Jacksonville,’” Spain said before introducing Cosby.
Sporting sweatpants and a "Learn 2 Earn" T-shirt, Cosby began his lecture by teasing the mayor and poking fun at the Jacksonville Jaguars' past season, comparing them both to well-known cities that are "on the Weather Channel."
“Now they know your pro football team,” Cosby said. “Other cities love your pro football team.”
Then Cosby took the audience back to his childhood with stories of growing up poor and the old-fashioned days of parenting, when some parents took a more physical approach. The golden three-word rule he used to survive childhood? “Don't talk back.”
“In the South you don’t get beatings, you get whoopings,” Cosby joked.
Cosby said he strongly believes improving the quality of the nation’s education begins with parents. He ended with one last call-to-action to the people to fix Jacksonville’s education system.
“Nobody is coming,” Cosby said. “Only you.”