Clippers owner encourages politicians to invest in education

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Steve Ballmer, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, paid a visit to Memphis on Tuesday, May 22.

However, his trip to the Bluff City had nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with education.

Ballmer is the former CEO of Microsoft and the fifteenth richest man in America.  He is also a generous philanthropist who gives millions to groups that fight economic disparity.

No group does it better, Ballmer said, than Memphis nonprofit Seeding Success.

"I think every kid in America deserves a shot at the American Dream," Ballmer said.

The Harvard graduate believes Seeding Success can make that happen.  The nonprofit focuses on early childhood education.

Tuesday night at historic Clayborn Temple in the shadow of FedExForum, the Clippers owner was the keynote speaker at the group's annual meeting.

"That's what I'm excited about," he told the crowd of community leaders, "is what I see here in Memphis.  I see a community that's stepping up together for these challenges."

Fresh off the announcement that City of Memphis is investing $6 million into Pre-K education, Seeding Success Executive Director Mark Sturgis isn't done pushing politicians for more money.

"If we really think our children are our best investment," Sturgis said, "then we will want folks to put their money where their mouth is and fund this program in a way that will change a generation in Memphis."

Ballmer, known for being eccentric and high-energy, wanted to both congratulate and celebrate Seeding Success' accomplishments.

The group designed an early education plan for Shelby County and will oversee how much of the funding is used.

"I hope we can pump them up," said Ballmer, "and make them feel good about what they're doing.  And I hope we can help them get support from other people here in Memphis.  That's my goal for the day."

The Seeding Success slogan is "Cradle to Career," making sure every child is prepared for school and making sure every child graduates from high school to go on to college or a job.

Leveling the playing field, at least in life, is what Ballmer is all about.

"Not everybody is going to make it," Ballmer said, "but everybody deserves a fair shot."

So how did Ballmer hear about Memphis' Seeding Success?  He and his wife, Connie, donate millions to StriveTogether, a national education non-profit that partners with Seeding Success.

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