Star Parker, a syndicated columnist and nonprofit leader known for her critical stance on the welfare system, abortion and other issues, will speak at Wichita State University at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Parker will speak at WSU's Civil Engagement Lecture Series on "Breaking the Cycle of Poverty: From Entitlement to Empowerment."
She said her message is one of "freedom and opportunity" meant to inspire people — particularly those caught in the cycle of poverty — to take personal responsibility for their actions and make decisions that will better their lives.
"Once you start adopting a Biblical world view and start addressing your own destiny," she said in a phone interview, "it will make a difference in the choices that you make."
In addition to her WSU speech, Parker will also make three other appearances in Wichita: She will share her testimony at the North Ash Church of the Nazarene on Sunday; she will address the Rotary Club on Monday; and she will be the keynote speaker at the Pregnancy Crisis Center's anniversary celebration on Tuesday.
Parker is the founder and president of CURE — the Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. It describes itself as a "social policy think tank that provides a national voice of reason on issues of race and poverty in the media and poor communities."
Parker once lived the lifestyle that she now encourages people to escape. She was on welfare, used drugs, had several abortions and committed crimes.
She said coming to Christ — and the decision to leave the lifestyle "cold turkey" — changed her life in her mid-20s.
Parker is critical of the welfare system, claiming that it traps people in a cycle of poverty — one that some people are content with because they view it as being paid for having babies and not working.
She acknowledged that some people are critical of her, telling her "how dare you" criticize a system that she once benefited from herself.
Many people who are in that way of life, though, welcome the message and see it as one of inspiration, she said.
"They know that they don't like the state that they're finding themselves in," she said, "and they're encouraged — if I can do it, they can get out as well."
Wichita developer Johnny Stevens said he was so impressed with a speech Parker made at Kansas State University, he wanted to bring her to Wichita to speak. Because she had already committed to the Pregnancy Crisis Center event, she agreed to come to Wichita for other speaking events, Stevens said.
"What I like is the positive message," Stevens said. "She has a very positive message on how to get people to break the cycle of poverty and become more self-reliant."
Stevens said that he doesn't expect her speeches to "change the world."
"But if she can help somebody out," he said, "that's what it's all about."