Advocating Through Music and Politics
February 28, 2023
In this episode of the “On Par” podcast, President Tate sits down with LSU star student, Antavion “Tay” Moore. Tay is Louisiana’s first John Robert Lewis Scholar. The LSU Ogden Honors College student and Louisiana Service and Leadership Scholar is studying political science, classical and jazz piano in Dr. Willis Delony's studio. Moore also plays in Dr. Molly Redfield's ensemble. In 2020, he was named the Louisiana Department of Education’s High School Student of the Year. While not everyone in his family had the opportunity to attend college, Tay said he plans to use his degree and love of political science and music to advocate for social change and community development, especially in rural areas.
[00:00:00]President William F. Tate IV: Welcome to "On Par with the President." Joining me today is a true five-star student. Antavion "Tay" Moore is an LSU Ogden Honors college student. He is also the state's first John Robert Lewis Scholar. Tay is a junior from Ringgold, Louisiana, studying political science and music. He is also a Louisiana Service and Leadership Scholar. Well, we're gonna tee off with a couple questions. In high school, not only did you have a 4.0 gpa, but I understand you earned two associate degrees. Where did you get the passion and drive to engage in education in that way?
[00:00:44]Tay Moore: I grew up in Ringgold, Louisiana, which is a small town in northwest Louisiana, um, around 1,300 people. And though we were small and rural, um, and we didn't have much, I always grew up in an atmosphere that was conducive to learning and pursuing educational goals. Um, both of my parents worked full-time. They were extremely young when I was born and so I would ride the bus each afternoon to my great-grandparents house, Granny and Grandpa. As I would get off the bus and walk in the house, I'd be sure to hear Granny say, "Well, hey, Tay, how was school?" I'd say, "it was good." And she'd say, "Alrighty then, well you get at that table and you get on your lesson." And that meant it was time to do schoolwork. And so they established this system every day where after I would come from school, the first thing that I would do was my schoolwork.
[00:01:31] And they always expected me to have a book that I was reading as well. And they would always support me at all school events that my parents couldn't be there, I knew that they would always be there. And some of my other grandparents as well. And then at school, my aunt was our elementary school secretary and you talk about a woman who knew how to put kids in line and some parents too. And so I was never offered the privilege that some are extended to act up at school. And she always taught me as well to do my best and to respect my teachers. And by the time I got in junior high, my mom became a paraprofessional at the school. So I was surrounded on all ends by people who were at the school. And all of my teachers pushed me academically and they noticed that I was inclined to come to topics early.
[00:02:17] Um, but they never gave me busy work. They would always go a grade above or always give me something more challenging and pushed me. And my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Timothy Williams, um, had started a partnership with Bossier Parish Community College that would offer me the opportunity to go there to begin taking dual enrollment courses because frankly, I'd learned everything that I could learn in the four walls of my school. We had a fully funded dual enrollment program. I didn't have to worry about paying for any of my classes or coursework, but the only issue was transportation. I had to have a way to be there. And Ringgold was an hour from Bossier Parish Community College. And so when that time came and the conversation arose, you know, how was I gonna get there?
[00:03:00] Well, guess who stepped up to the plate? Granny, Grandpa had passed away by that time, and my great-grandmother, who never received a high school diploma, drove me every day to the community college so that I would be able to achieve and receive education there. So I was always surrounded by a community that instilled in me the purpose of education, realizing that there were so many before me, especially in my family, that weren't given the opportunities that I was to pursue an education. And so I had an obligation to do my best. The parable is still true, that it takes a village and I'm simply a product of that village.
[00:03:39]President William F. Tate IV: That's an amazing story about community and family. Thank you for sharing that, that, that is actually moving, um, to hear that story. So you're at LSU. How did you, how did you pick us? Why are you here?
[00:03:54]Tay Moore: Yes. You know, this is where the conversation gets a bit funny. Um, I never planned on attending LSU. Actually, our state 4-H conference was always here, 4-H University was always here at, on, um, the Baton Rouge campus during the summer. And from my experiences on LSU during high school, even with literary rally, it was a beautiful campus, but it was so large and I never thought that I'd be able to find community here. And so I, and so throughout high school I didn't know where I was going, but I knew where I was not going. And that was LSU. Well it came time, you know, decision day is coming in my senior year and I applied to a bunch of different colleges. And, I also entertained the notion of maybe attending an Ivy League, and the only Ivy League institution I was accepted into was Columbia.
[00:04:44] And as you know, Columbia's in New York City and this was in the heat of the pandemic. And my dad, who served 15 years in the National Guard and two, um, terms overseas, who's a pretty stern fella told me straight up that I was not going to New York for college. So I settled and I said, you know, well since I don't know what to do, given my experiences in, in 4-H, um, I'll just go to the institution that can offer me the best possible education in state. And that's how I ended up at LSU.
[00:05:17]President William F. Tate IV: Wow. Now, you mentioned you were active with 4-H for years. How, how did you first get involved with 4-H? And how does that organization help you with your goals?
[00:05:27]Tay Moore: Yes, so as I said, you know, small rural town, um, rural school and 4-H was the only club that was offered at our elementary school. And I can remember having teachers, one in particular that would even say, if you don't have the money and the $7 to join 4-H, I will gladly pay. Everyone was expected to join 4-H because the teachers wanted a break. In my first club meeting in elementary, you know, went to my first club meeting and learned about 4-H, ended up being voted as the club president and it just blew my mind. And so I stayed active, um, in 4-H throughout junior high, you know, in, in high school. And there were more clubs that, um, that I eventually got engaged in. And 4-H particularly taught me a bunch that I could not learn in the traditional classroom.
[00:06:13] And basically it taught me how to serve, how to lead and how to advocate. There was never a month that went by where we did not work on a service project through 4-H or learn of ways that we can impact our community. We were taught, you know, that though we might not have had much, and though we might not have had all the answers, we did have the potential as young people to make a change in our community and to serve the community.
[00:06:40] So we were always active in service projects. And then leadership, when I got in high school, I joined, well, I put my name on the ballot to join the State Executive Board and was voted as a regional representative. And I would stay involved on the executive board throughout high school and worked my ranks up, um, served as the, as the historian reporter, later vice president and then president. And through my increased roles, I learned a bunch about working with a team of people, and there were also national opportunities that I became involved in serving on the National 4-H Congress Design Team, the pinnacle 4-H event, over 900 young people and adults across the country convene in Atlanta. It's been going on for over a hundred years. And, so it taught me how to serve and lead, but most importantly, it taught me how to advocate. In my role as State 4-H President, I was tasked with promoting the 4-H program and making sure that we had the funding both politically and you know, community-wise to continue the program.
[00:07:41] And I can't tell you how many school board association meetings I had to go to, how many police jury meetings I had to go to. And so 4-H taught me to use my voice and my experiences, not only to advocate for my life to be better, but for other people, for more people to have access to 4-H. And then, as you know, I would eventually be voted to the National 4-H Board of Trustees, the top governing board for the national organization. And so 4-H completely complimented my academic career and changed the trajectory of my life.
[00:08:12]President William F. Tate IV: That's quite powerful. How, how do you balance being on a national board and your academic work in political science and music?
[00:08:20]Tay Moore: Sure thing. So logistically it, it takes a bunch and I'm a terrible procrastinator, truth be told. I just am. And so I've become a bit proactive. At the beginning of this semester when all the syllabi were posted, I went through the syllabi and I found what days we were having exams, and I put all of that information, any assignments that were due, I put them in my Outlook calendar and I print that out.
[00:08:42] And I also carry around a mom planner, and I like to call it my mom always had, you know, one of those huge planners with the, with the large squares for each date. And I write down everything in there, but I also, I'm privileged to have a council of moms is what I like to call them. Um, and a bunch of the ladies that, particularly women in my life who have been influential in training me, you know, through 4-H or through school, and I make sure that I keep them, um, up to date on what's going on, and they know how to keep me in line and make sure that I'm staying on task. Um, so that's the logistical side of things, but philosophically, I've never viewed my activities as separate from academics rather, um, complimentary or a necessary part might I say, of my academics.
[00:09:30] And when I joined the National 4-H Board of Trustees, when I was elected to the Board of Trustees, it was really an eye-opening experience, you know? I mean, just think about it. How does a 19 year old country kid from Ringgold end up on the governing board of one of America's largest youth development organizations sitting beside all these CEOs and university, university presidents and all these distinguishable business professionals. To have that opportunity was completely mind blowing and, and might I say, I loved it. I really did. And I gained, I gained a council of mentors. I gained another family through being on the board of trustees and gained some amazing career advice that I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else.
[00:10:15] And that's just, and so everything that I learned throughout there complimented my education and made it more practical and showed me how the things that I'm learning here at LSU can be applied to the real world and how they impact the masses.
[00:10:28]President William F. Tate IV: Well, help us understand. You're in political science and music. Why those majors and what do you enjoy about them?
[00:10:38]Tay Moore: I was initially a biological engineering major when I came here to LSU and I majored in that for a year and a half. And I enjoyed the time there, but I did not feel as passionate, might I say, um, about the studies there. And so I ended, I would eventually end up changing to political science and music, but I've always seen both political science and music, um, as mechanisms to advocate for social change. As we know public policy impacts every facet of our life, think about it, um, especially here in America as a democracy. And also music in studying the Civil Rights era, music has always played a critical role in uplifting people's souls, but also saying things that could not be said plainly. And so through studying political science and music, I've become a better person, I would say. And I've not only figured out who I want, I've not only figured out what I want to do, but I've also figured out who I want to be as a person. And that is an advocate. That's why I study those too.
[00:11:50]President William F. Tate IV: Well, I'm gonna put you on the spot. Now, I presume, because you major in music, you're a musician?
[00:11:55]Tay Moore: Yes.
[00:11:56]President William F. Tate IV: What part of the music fabric are you engaged in?
[00:11:59]Tay Moore: Yeah, so I play piano, um, and I've always been a church musician. I love gospel music. Really, it's the only music that I listen to with the exception of jazz. Um, and so, and then I'm also, um, active in jazz here, so getting to study with Dr. Deloney there, so I love that.
[00:12:16]President William F. Tate IV: So if you had to pick political science, music, political science, music, you don't have to pick because you're at LSU and we let you do both. But if you had to pick one or the other, which would you pick?
[00:12:29]Tay Moore: You know, that's a hard question, and truthfully, I would have to say that I would still use both. I would still pick both, though using music as a means to advocate for what I believe in. And I think that's attainable.
[00:12:51]President William F. Tate IV: You're locked in.
[00:12:52]Tay Moore: Yes. I am.
[00:12:52]President William F. Tate IV: I'm glad you said it that way. I love it. I love it. And I'm glad you're able to major in both here at LSU. That's very special. You are Louisiana's first participant in a national leadership program created around the, you know, Faith and Politics Institute and that's the John Robert Lewis Scholar Program. Um, give us some insight about how you think about Representative Lewis.
[00:13:18]Tay Moore: Yes. Um, being selected for this program has been an extreme honor. And considering the life of Representative Lewis, he has a very humble beginnings as we know growing up in Troy. However, I admire him most because he gave his life, basically, he put his life on the line for this pursuit of creating a more perfect union and establishing and making sure that our policies in society treated us, you and I, as members of the Black community, as equal citizens, just like anyone else. And I always have, growing up with my great-grandparents, um, with majority of the time, spending time with them, always felt connected to the civil rights era, although I never lived there, because I heard these stories every day.
[00:14:11] Black history didn't have to be taught in school because I was gonna hear it when I got home. And so to be able to study the life of such a man who realized that our most pressing issue, the most critical issue in America and in our nation, cannot be solved on a football field or with any grant from the NIH. The most critical problem facing society lies right here within the heart, and he dedicated his whole life to personal transformation. Demonstrations were only 15%, or roughly 15%, of the civil rights movement. The rest of the time was spent organizing, fellowshipping with other people, creating community, but also personal transformation.
[00:14:56] He believed in the principles of nonviolence, and one of those principles is that nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. John, John Lewis didn't just talk the talk. He walked the walk. And that's what I've enjoyed so much with, about being able to study his life and hopefully pursue a life of nonviolence just like he did.
[00:15:17]President William F. Tate IV: Thank you for that. Um, now you're in the program, what's that like? What do you, what, what, what do you actually experience in the program?
[00:15:25]Tay Moore: Yeah, so being in the program has given us proximity to some of the civil rights icons that are still with us today, and it's, it opens your eyes to the diversity of the civil rights movement and the different role that all the individuals played.
[00:15:42] I can remember our first, one of our first sessions, when I first became a John Lewis Scholar, was on music of the movement. And we learned about the different songs of the civil rights era and how music, you know, was used as a vehicle for change and the various musicians who played a role in that. And then to hear from leaders who were artists, and so they used their skills to create comic books. They realized that the Black community couldn't read a regular book to understand how the voting process worked or why they needed to vote and the different elected offices that were in the county. And so they created these comic books for them to read.
[00:16:19] And then most recently, this past Sunday, we had a call and we heard from a photographer, a photographer from the movement who solely took pictures, in essence to make sure, um, that civility was sustained and people were safe, but also to use those pictures as a means to show other people what was going on, on the grounds and to be a voice. And then too, we know that there were individuals who were active in the sciences and who played a role in making sure that Blacks, um, forged a path in academia through science exploration. It's been so nice getting that proximity to see that everyone plays a different role, but no one's role is any greater than the other.
[00:17:01] We just, we just play slightly different ones, and so gaining proximity has been a great, um, part of the program. And also I would say, learning these tenets of nonviolence. Behind everything that the civil rights, um, movement portrayed outside, you know, in the streets, internally, they spent a bunch of time training and realizing that the evil in the world is not individual people, it's evil itself. And so studying those principles of nonviolence has been so eye-opening for me. And then just the diversity that's within our cohort. Some of us, you know, study in the humanities and arts, but others study the sciences. And we're all in different levels too. Some of us are undergraduate students, some are graduate students and some are career professionals.
[00:17:47] Um, but we're a cohort, we have that cohort feel and we're, we're a family and we've made a lifelong commitment. That's what I would say has been most unique about this program. It's not just a year long fellowship. This is a lifelong commitment, and I'm just excited to see what we're all able to accomplish together in the future.
[00:18:07]President William F. Tate IV: When I listen to you, I hear, I hear the humanist in you. I hear the artist in you. I hear the social scientist in you. What, when you're thinking about the remainder of your academic pursuits, what else do you wanna get accomplished on that front?
[00:18:25]Tay Moore: Yes. You know, I, I've contemplated sharing this, but I think I will. Six months before I was born, my grandmother, my mom's mother was murdered, and Pastor Sapp approached the pulpit to give the eulogy, and the title of his sermon was, "Can There Any Good Come out of Ringgold?" Little did he realize that I was in my mother's womb. And so that phrase has served as a mantra for my family. According to the statistics President Tate, I shouldn't be attending school here. I shouldn't have graduated with two associate degrees, and I surely should not find myself sitting in the office of the President, the first Black president of the SEC, but I serve a God who specializes in the impossible.
[00:19:16] I'm thankful simply to just not only be where I am today, but to still be moving forward. And truth be told, I have no idea really what lies ahead for my future. But one thing I do know, much like Paul said, I forget those things that lie behind and I press towards the mark of the prize of the high calling of God, which is in Christ Jesus. My purpose here for being at LSU and what I hope to accomplish the remainder of my time here is not solely just to win another award. That's been great. I appreciate that. But I didn't come just to win awards. I just, I didn't come just to win a popularity contest. I came to make a difference and I encourage as many people as I can to do the same.
[00:20:00] So that's what I hope to accomplish. And whether that means solely being through political science and music or also studying other areas, other, other disciplines. I'm taking Politics and Poverty this semester, and the first two semesters, the first two weeks of the course have focused on research methods and the intersection of psychology, bio, bio, and biology in considering poverty. And so right there, there's this cross-disciplinary study, even in political science. And even in studying political theology with Dr. Eubanks. I'm in his class this semester, in Ethical Reason, Ethical Reasoning that goes across every discipline that we offer on this institution. And so I look forward and I hope to accomplish more cross-disciplinary activity where we all work together in solving the problems that burden our state.
[00:20:59]President William F. Tate IV: Well said. Now I'm gonna ask you something that's more difficult. So you've described a lot of experiences that you've had here at LSU. Talk, talk to us a little bit about your, your very top memories or experiences you've had as a student at LSU.
[00:21:20]Tay Moore: Yes. You know, this, this, this is a hard one. My most favorite experiences here at LSU have been through service learning. As you know, as a land grant institution, we're built on three pillars, teaching and research, but my personal favorite, extension. And LSU has given me the great opportunity to be active in service in the greater Baton Rouge area and beyond. As you know, I'm active in 4-H and serve as Collegiate 4-H Co-President, and last semester we had a service learning activity, um, in Abbeville, a grass, uh, marsh grass planting down in the swamps. And so directly relating, you know, to coastal erosion. And I was pretty skeptical about it because, like I said, I'm from North Louisiana and really, truly, you know, we don't relate to the coast, so we think as, as much as, um, as people who live down here.
[00:22:14] And so I was a bit apprehensive about doing it, but you know, since I'm a leader of the club, I, I went along with it. And I'll tell you what, I had an amazing time out there and I learned a bunch from the firsthand, um, experience that I had in helping to restore the coast. Now, I must also say that I do not have the best health and I'm really not that fit. And so I was extremely sore afterwards. Crawling in that mud is no joke.
[00:22:39] Um, but my most favorite experiences here have been through service to the community like that. And I often, you know, I'm an, I'm an academic and more so than being a sports fan. And I often think even what the, what the civil rights leaders would consider of just us comparing that Tiger Stadium is packed out every time we have a football game. Yet there's so many nonprofits in the Baton Rouge area that need volunteers. And it, and it just always boggles my mind. And I want to remain, remain aware that while teaching and research do play a tremendous role, they do, we must also carry that role of extension and uplift it just as much and be active in the community. And being, being active in the community, I've learned so much about here and I've become more at home through serving the community.
[00:23:40]President William F. Tate IV: Well, that's powerful, sir. And many of us who go to Tiger Stadium now have to rethink, not going, but also sharing our time serving.
[00:23:49]Tay Moore: Yes.
[00:23:50]President William F. Tate IV: That's, that's powerful. Well, you've had a great experience it sounds like at LSU so far. What advice would you give to current undergraduate students and to high school students who might consider coming to campus?
[00:24:05]Tay Moore: Yeah, so my first piece of advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity that you're given to not only learn, but to just create relationships with other people. Respect your teachers and put, put true effort into your academics. Um, but also attend office hours and try to speak with your professors just to figure out who they are as a person. You might be surprised of the wisdom that they're able to sow into your life. And next, as would not be surprising given my previous answers, I would encourage all members of LSU community to become active in volunteering, service learning.
[00:24:48] You know, we have the Engaged Citizen program. Reach out and find some way to serve. Martin Luther King said nobody can, not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service, and so I encourage all students to become active in, in service learning. You'll be surprised how well it benefits the rest of your academics. And lastly, I would simply encourage all students to, if you have not, truly look up the six principles of nonviolence. They're very impactful. And there was an article that was published the year John Lewis passed away. He had written an essay that he wanted to be published when he passed away, and it's titled "Together, We [You] Can Redeem the Soul of our Nation."
[00:25:39] And I would encourage every member of the LSU community to read that article and take it to heart and answer the higher call. I believe that each one of us, every student, every faculty member, every staff member, everyone in the LSU community is called to pursue a specific purpose in life. They play a specific role. It'd be a pity if we got so bogged down in division between disciplines. That someone felt that they weren't supported enough to pursue what they were called to do. And so I'd encourage all students to read that article by John Lewis and to answer that call. And you never know, maybe we can just go down in history among those who were known as turning their world upside down.
[00:26:28]President William F. Tate IV: Well, Tay, I'm gonna say this. Uh, I've got a chance to talk to a lot of students over the course of my life, but the maturity of your thought and thinking and actions are extremely impressive. Uh, I appreciate you coming on the podcast to talk about your life journey and how, um, it relates to others in our community. So thank you and really appreciate this opportunity and look forward to seeing what unfolds in this thing that you are creating called your life. Thank you.