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February 13, 2017   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | MARTA CEO discusses how action leads to change at annual…
Magnify Parker, Keith Holmes-Hunter Lecture 2017-v
MARTA CEO Keith Parker delivered the 2017 Holmes-Hunter Lecture Feb. 2. Photo by Peter Frey

MARTA CEO discusses how action leads to change at annual lecture

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Keith Parker's life is all about action.

As the general manager and chief executive officer for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, he takes action by seeing that Atlantans and other visitors to the city get to their destinations with more than 400,000 passenger boardings each day. He's also learned several important lessons by taking action in his personal activism.

"If you don't jump in, you'll miss every single shot. If you don't take the chance and take the risk, you'll never be able to play big. And I'm one who believes that if you play big, you win big," he said.

Parker delivered the 2017 Holmes-Hunter Lecture Feb. 2 in the Chapel to approximately 250 attendees. Sponsored by the President' Office, the lecture honors Charlayne Hunter-Gault and the late Hamilton Holmes. Held annually since 1985, the lecture also has been designated one of UGA's Signature Lectures for 2016-2017.

"Each year, the university celebrates the legacy of Dr. Hamilton Holmes and Ms. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first two African-American students to enroll at our state's flagship institution," said Arthur Tripp, assistant to UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "This lecture has consistently provided a platform to explore ideas, race relations and civil rights."

Parker first came across Holmes' name when he started at MARTA.

"There are only two of our 38 stops that are named after people. One is the Martin Luther King station. That goes without explanation. The other is the Hamilton E. Holmes station," he said. "When I think that the name of such a person adorns our rail station, I can only juxtapose that with the fact that Mr. Holmes opened so many doors that now allow so many to navigate all that UGA has to offer."

Parker's own collegiate years saw him taking action as well. As a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, he was active in several causes and helped start the Office of Minority Student Affairs.

"Change can happen, but it does require action," he said. "Leading through action gets you pumped up. It really puts you in the game of life, waking up each morning choosing to take action rather than sit and watch and wait for someone else. Hamilton Holmes. Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Martin Luther King. They didn't wait."

Also during his time at VCU, Parker volunteered at Blackwell Elementary School, which included "one of the toughest neighborhoods in all of Richmond."

"During volunteer activities, that's when you really learn leadership skills. That's where you learn the ability to motivate. You learn more about yourself from stepping up to lead than you will if you just sit back," he said.

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