Chris Singleton’s “Powerful” Messages Quickly Make Him “One of the Best”

Each year, Cape Henry Collegiate hosts several Distinguished Speakers that present to the Upper School.  Kicking off the 2019-2020 Distinguished Speaker series, Chris Singleton visited Cape Henry on September 11, 2019, to talk to the faculty and student body.  Chris’s life was upended on June 17, 2015, when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who Chris said was “mistaught” to hate African Americans, murdered his mother Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and eight others at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Chris was devastated after this tragedy and struggled with his grief; however, as he told the Upper School, “10% of our life is action.  The other 90% is reaction.” Chris’s 10% is his race, his name, and his mother’s murder: the things in his life that were out of his control.  His 90% is what he chooses to do with his life, which is to speak to students and share his story with others.

After speaking with several students and faculty members for their thoughts about what Chris Singleton had to say, it is clear that he was a great choice for the Distinguished Speaker series.  What stood out the most to Josh Mickens (‘20) was Singleton’s “ability to push through the pain” of the hardships he has faced. Ailis Lindgren (‘22) shared, “His ideas about forgiveness and his mindset on handling the grief were an important message” for Cape Henry students to hear.  Adding to Ailis’s thoughts, Josh said, “We can learn to persevere through opposition in life.”


Offering another perspective, Mrs. Katie Oakley (Upper School Spanish) said Chris was “such a down-to-earth person and easy to relate to.  We’ve had a lot of speakers in the past that weren’t as realistic or relatable. His message was so powerful and real and I couldn’t wait to hear what he’ll say next.  I didn’t want it to end!” What struck Mrs. Oakley was the concept of your 10% and 90% and said, “How lucky am I to have been able to sit through that?”


Mrs. Oakley was able to follow up on that idea with her sophomore advisory who she thought “got a lot out of” Singleton’s speech.  Personally, her 10% would be “the typical things that you can’t control”; her 90% would be “what kind of attitude I have each day. I could say ‘Oh, it’s another day, I have to teach.’  Or I could come into school, happy to help students and ask, ‘What can I do to make their day a great day?’” Like Mrs. Oakley, Josh’s 10% is “pretty normal, but I have to work on my reactions, or my 90%.”


When asked what they would like to see from future Distinguished Speakers, Josh simply said, “Speakers similar to Chris.”  Mrs. Oakley responded, “That’s a toughie. People like Chris Singleton are great, just opening our eyes.” Mental health and self-awareness are topics that she would be interested in hearing more about from other speakers.  Ultimately, one short hour with Chris Singleton was enough for the Upper School to appreciate his messages of kindness, love, positivity, and gratitude.