Ardmore High School students received inspiration Friday from someone who used to sit where they do.
Judge David Lewis, presiding judge for the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals, is a 1976 AHS graduate, the first class that attended school in the current building.
“It was a pleasure being back in my hometown, telling them about dreams, commitment and sacrifice,” Lewis said. “There are beautiful, bright young people here.”
He is the first African-American to serve on the court, as well as the first African-American to be the vice presiding judge and presiding judge.
Lewis spoke to the students about what he referred to as DCS – dream, commitment and sacrifice.
“My encouragement to you is that you can do anything,” he said, as he related stories about growing up on O Street and being the first in his family to be a lawyer.
He read the three letters he received after taking the Oklahoma Bar Exam, the first two saying he didn’t pass and the latter finally passing the exam.
“I could have quit after the first letter,” Lewis said. “If I had quit, I wouldn’t be on the state’s high court and wouldn’t be doing the things I’m doing today.”
Students found the speech inspiring, and many crowded around afterwards to ask the judge more questions.
When asked about his inspiration, Lewis referenced his family, teachers and community in Ardmore.
“I was a pitcher of water. I had so much in me, but they kept pouring more in until I ran over,” he said.
Junior Rhyhiem Gaines works at the HFV Wilson Community Center and was inspired by Lewis’ persistence.
“It made me feel like I can better myself and inspire the kids at my workplace,” Gaines said.
Senior Tien Nguyen plans to study environmental engineering at the University of Oklahoma. To prepare, he has taken Advance Placement Chemistry and AP Literature.
“I will need lots of science, but the judge said if you stick to it and try your best, anything is possible,” Nguyen said.
Senior Fredrick Johnson said he plans to be a chef or music producer. He has already figured out what to say to the naysayers.
“One day it might be my song they are listening to or my food they are eating,” he said. “It felt good to see someone pursue his dreams and not quit.”