By STEVEN NALLEY
Early in his address to Armstrong Middle School students, Warren Martin recited a parable he said he had seen in a magazine.
In the parable, Martin said, the wind knocks an eagle’s egg out of an oak tree and into a hen’s nest, leading the baby eagle inside to grow up among chickens. Soon, he said, the eagle learns to speak chickens’ language, makes chicken friends and attends the chickens’ school. One day, an adult eagle appears and asks the eagle why it does not fly like other eagles, he said.
It takes a few attempts, Martin said, but eventually, the eagle flies.
“Repeat after me,” Martin said to the students. “I’m an eagle. I’m destined to fly.”
Warren Martin is one of the Martin Triplets, three fraternal triplets who all overcame hardships in their youth to become lawyers.
The triplets have appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Montel Williams Show” and several print publications, and they have given motivational addresses at schools around the country. On Friday, they came to AMS to speak to sixth, seventh and eighth graders about using their education to overcome challenges.
Only two of the three triplets were able to appear; one of them; Rashun Martin, said his brother Kenya Martin was ill and unable to attend. When the triplets’ father died when they were only 10 years old, Rashun said, their mother was forced to raise them and two other brothers on her own with the money she made as a teacher. Sometimes, he said, all they had to eat was peanut butter and crackers.
“She kept a baseball bat in one hand and a Bible in the other,” Rashun said. “There were times we didn’t have money. I have to tell my wife it’s not okay to bring peanut butter crackers to my house. I say, ‘I’ve had my fill.’”
At one point, Rashun asked students in the audience raised by single mothers to raise their hands. Dozens of hands went up. Rashun said the students do not have to let the struggles that can come with having a single parent stop them from reaching their goals.
“It’s okay to not have,” Rashun said. “I grew up in Edwards, Mississippi. We came from a small town nothing like Starkville. This is considered a big city to us. I wanted to change my situation and help improve the lives of others. I want you to understand that you can do whatever it is you choose to set your mind on.”
Warren said he would speak on Kenya’s behalf, encouraging students to not only stay in school and get high school degrees, but also attend college and get post-graduate degrees in law, medicine or other fields.
“There is a higher power than yourselves,” Warren said. “Everybody’s life in this gym has a purpose and has meaning. How many of you are future doctors? Future lawyers? Future engineers?”
Warren said discipline is also important; the triplets’ mother would lock them in their room as children to listen to and memorize an audio tape of multiplication tables. She would then release them to play outside, only to have them sing the multiplication songs as they played, he said.
Discipline also extends to what students wear, Warren said. The examples he gave triggered laughter from some students and applause from several teachers.
“Real men don’t wear earrings,” Warren said. “Boys, your pants belong on your waists. Young ladies, if you love and respect yourselves, you dress in a way that you leave certain things to the imagination.”
Seventh grader Antoinette Hinton said she enjoyed such moments of levity, including the brothers’ tale of a spanking given for a love note Rashun passed to a girl in his fifth grade class. She said she could also relate to the triplets’ struggles.
“I can’t say that I lost my dad, but I almost lost my dad,” Hinton said. “He was in a car accident a couple of months ago.”
Hinton said the Martins showed her she and her fellow students could do whatever they set their minds to, regardless of circumstance.
“I want to go to San Francisco to be a pediatrician,” Hinton said. “It’s big, it looks pretty, and I’ve been almost everywhere else ... to visit family members and on field trips with the school because of social studies fairs and science fairs.”
Warren said AMS’s students were a good audience.
“They were very receptive,” Warren said. “I could see the fire in their eyes, their eagerness to learn, their eagerness to be mentored. They seemed to be excited about their futures.”