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Stepping Up Ewu Finds Needed Dose Of Leadership And It Comes From Its Student Body President

The baby his wife is carrying is due at the end of May. Graduation is in June. Choir singing is weekly. Communicating with God is daily.

LaShund Lambert’s life is busy enough. Now, he’s at the center of a political tug of war over the university he loves.

Eastern Washington University’s student body president hasn’t shied from the challenge, dealing with the turmoil with poise and determination.

His leadership on the Cheney campus is so respected, some credit Lambert, who is African American, with dispelling racist stereotypes.

The 22-year-old senior demonstrated his resolve last September, at the normally stodgy faculty breakfast.

With EWU’s president resigning and rumors swirling about faculty layoffs, Lambert asked professors, administrators and other employees to stand and hold hands. Then he used his deep voice to lead them in singing “We Shall Overcome.”

“It was absolutely classic LaShund,” said Stephanie Ennis, EWU’s assistant director of student affairs. “He was incredible.”

For his efforts, Lambert was honored Saturday night at Eastern’s annual Black History Month Banquet, held at the Ridpath Hotel.

Eight other African American student leaders were also recognized: Bobby Raiford, Travis Sewell, Joshua Hall, Stacy King, Derrick Peyton, Daniel Cochran, Giana Hammer and Chandra Grady.

After graduating from high school in Kent, Wash., Lambert considered going to highly regarded Morehouse College in Atlanta or Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.

Instead, he chose Cheney.

“I liked the small-town feel,” said Lambert, whose family moved from Malvern, Ark., population 9,256, when he was 11. “I like shaking someone’s hand and knowing it means something.”

At a school where only one out of every 230 students is black, there was also plenty of opportunity to change perceptions.

Since arriving in fall 1993, he’s been busy. He spent his first two years on campus as a resident assistant in the dorms, helping coordinate events. Then he joined the student council.

He and his wife, Kadeesha, married in August 1996.

Lambert, a music major, also serves as a gospel soloist and organist at Holy Temple Church of God and Christ in Cheney.

Juggling all those interests, he still devotes about 25 hours a week to fighting to preserve Eastern: meeting with administrators, stirring up students, talking to legislative aides.

But Lambert takes more pride in helping build racial tolerance.

It hasn’t been easy. People have told him that his intelligence, drive and homespun values are the exception, not the rule, for his race.

Because of the color of his skin and because he’s 6-foot-5, he’s constantly asked if he’s on the basketball team. He’s not.

“That hurts,” he said.

Reminders of the nation’s slow march toward racial equality hang on his office wall. A steadfast Martin Luther King Jr. states “I have a dream” across from a fiery Malcolm X, vowing “by any means necessary.”

There’s also a Norman Rockwell portrait of a ponytailed black girl walking on the street. The brick wall in the background is spraypainted with a racial epithet.

“That’s another reminder of what I have to do,” Lambert said. “I have the duty to make sure all the things they went through weren’t in vain.”

He recites passages from abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, quotes the philosophy espoused by African American author W.E.B DuBois.

Black history to Lambert is a state of mind, not a month.

“He feels things, he cares, he takes action,” Ennis said.

Matt Chase, Eastern’s dean of students, said Lambert emerged as a leader during the debate over the proposed WSU merger.

“Very few students in the university have the depth, experience and insight to handle what he’s done,” Chase said.

That’s partly why Lambert plans to study theology in graduate school. He wants to be a minister, maybe run a program for troubled kids. He plans to stay in Spokane.

Lambert figures progress will take time.

“The hard work on a sculpture isn’t working on the body,” he said. “It’s the fine little details, chiseling and sanding them down. That’s what we have to do, and I have to do.

“This country is too great to settle for good enough.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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