Claflin University senior Keiwon Brown will attend the State of the Union as the invited guest of U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
“I hope to meet more people and get a more open mind about everything political,” said Brown, a native of Columbia. “Since it’s close to election time, I want to get a better outlook on that."
As a student, Brown is hoping politicians inside the Beltway pay more attention to education. “I need to know what our leaders can do to help us out as students. It’s getting harder to get in school and even harder to find ways to pay for it,” he said.
Brown is no stranger to Washington, D.C., having been invited by DeMint last year to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. Still, Brown is a little awestruck by this recent turn of events.
He found out about the invitation last weekend while attending the South Carolina Leadership Forum. It was there in 2011 that one of DeMint’s aides, Marty Sherman, met him and became immediately impressed with the Claflin management information systems major. In 2012, he was asked if would be interested in going to the State of Union at the forum.
“I let him know right on the spot I would attend,” Brown said. “Then, I looked on my phone and realized it (the State of the Union) was next week. I am so ecstatic about this opportunity.”
DeMint seemed excited about Brown’s participation on Tuesday as well.
“Keiwon Brown is a wonderful young man with many accomplishments to his credit. He has shown outstanding leadership and ability both on campus as a Claflin University senior and through his service to his country as a member of the South Carolina National Guard. I’m honored to have the chance to present this promising South Carolinian with the opportunity to observe first-hand one of the most significant moments in our political system, and I hope that Keiwon will enjoy and benefit from the experience,” said DeMint.
Within the span of a few years at Claflin, opportunities are opening for Brown at a rapid clip.
He grew up in a single parent home with his mother, LaShonda, and two sisters, Diamond and Shanobia. Since the age of eight, Keiwon assisted LaShonda with operating a gas station. By 16, Brown was working three jobs to support his family and also played sports year round at A.C. Flora High School.
Quite literally, there was a lot on his breakfast plate. And he needed every morsel to make it through those days that were busy from sunrise to way past sunset.
“I had to grow up fast,” Brown said.
Despite balancing the strain of having to assist his family financially with school, Brown graduated A.C. Flora and was accepted to Claflin.
Now, Brown is an active member on campus. He is president of the student ambassadors for the Black Executive Exchange Program, a member of the leadership organization Sigma Alpha Pi and the National Society of Black Engineers. Brown also has worked in the Office of Career Development since his arrival at the University.
He recently joined the U.S. Army ROTC program. Upon graduation, Brown will be commissioned as a second lieutenant. His dream goal is to design programs for top firms as an information technology specialist.
After arriving in the nation’s capital, Brown will meet with DeMint and visit the sights and sounds of the city before the State of the Union.
“I want to represent Claflin University well because the institution helped me get here,” he said.