My good buddy Bill Cosby is going to give the commencement speech to Marquette University graduates in May. I'm sure he's going to give a great speech; I've had experience with Cosby's speeches before.
I'm actually not being out of line to refer to Cosby, one of America's most famous entertainers and an icon for TV and film fans who have grown up on his work, as a buddy.
We're both from North Philadelphia. We both attended Temple University in Philadelphia. But our strongest bond came in 2004 when he came to Milwaukee as the first stop in a nationwide campaign to stress more responsibility and better education for African-American parents and students.
Cosby spoke to a crowd of 2,200 people at North Division High School that night after months of negotiations with city officials, black educators and a group of black journalists to hold a community forum focusing on important issues with a very special guest, Dr. Huxtable himself.
I had a little something to do with it taking place; Cosby called me after I wrote a column about his controversial remarks about "low income black people" during a Washington D.C. event. We talked about my column and the fact that he felt most of the media had misrepresented what he said.
He wanted me to know that he held strong beliefs about demanding excellence from black parents and their children but much of the publicity about his comments had been presented out of context. After discussing the matter for awhile, Cosby asked me about my background in Philly and talked about some mutual associations, including attending the same high school and college.
It was a surreal conversation for me, talking by phone to a man who had always been one of my idols growing up because we came from the same place, albeit a generation apart.
Our talk led to his visit to Milwaukee to talk about failing black students, too much mob violence and the need for more parents to take accountability. He followed up that visit a year later with another community event at the Clinton Rose Center. Since then, we've kept in contact; I last talked to Cosby a few months ago when he invited me to his upcoming comedy stand-up appearance in Milwaukee in May.
That's also when he'll be here for the Marquette commencement, where he's scheduled to receive an honorary doctor of letters degree. I'm hoping to renew acquaintances with my friend if his busy schedule can accommodate it. Many of my friends and family have heard my stories about being at home and suddenly getting a phone call from Cosby to talk about some issue he had been thinking about or recently read in a newspaper.
He's told me personal stories about specific teachers who took an interest in his education as a young boy in Philly and the impact it had on the rest of his life. In the press release announcing his Marquette appearance, Cosby was quoted as considering himself a 'late bloomer' in terms of education even though he earned a doctoral degree in education during his show business career.
Anybody who watched "The Cosby Show" - wasn't that pretty much everybody? - remembers how so many of the scripts dealt with education, respect and family values.
My guess is the Marquette grads will hear a lot about that from the man himself and they will be all the better for the experience.
I know I am.
Eugene Kane is veteran Milwaukee journalist and nationally award winning columnist.
Kane writes about a variety of important issues in Milwaukee and society that impact residents of all backgrounds.