A Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist surprised children at Wheeless Road Elementary School on Wednesday and encouraged them to believe in themselves, work hard and stay in school.
Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., better known as Common, was in Augusta to promote the upcoming release of his new album, but he said it's important to take advantage of his fame to spread his message to children.
Common has built his reputation with messages that are generally positive, such as the ones he shared with schoolchildren on Wednesday.
"Whoever God created you to be is the best," he said. "God created you to be you, and you're special."
Common also encouraged them to work hard and achieve their dreams, citing President-Elect Obama as a good example to follow.
"Our new president is really a person who came from a place where they told him he couldn't be something, in a country where no one ever thought that we would see a black president, but now that we have a black president we understand that black people, white people, Asian people, Native Americans, Latinos, no matter what color you are, we all are one," he said. "Whatever you want to be you can be in this world. You just have to put your mind to it."
The key is staying in school, he said.
"The more you learn, the better you will be," he said. "Life is about learning."
Fourth-grader Jamedra Williams, 9, said it was cool seeing someone in real life whom she normally sees on TV.
Third-grader Jalon England, 9, said it was fun seeing the hip-hop artist, who made him think and encouraged him to believe in himself.
Principal Joe Moore said he was impressed with Common's message.
"When people think of rap, they think of the gangsta rap and stuff, but his messages are positive," Mr. Moore said. "I think the messages he had for the students were just what we wanted him to say to them."
Common has written children's books and established the Common Ground Foundation, which is dedicated to the education of urban youth.
Wheeless Road's Students of the Month were allowed to attend Common's talk on Wednesday.
The children could also ask questions and get his autograph.
"As children, it's good for them to see good examples of people that not only are successful, but are good people and can set a good example," he told reporters afterward.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.