Race, gender and social status won't make or break success, but a quality education will.
At least that's the view of some big names in Hollywood, music and sports who took the time to participate in NBC's Education Nation summit.
Actress Cheryl Hines, musician John Legend and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were among the celebrities, teachers and policy-makers attending the wide-ranging two-day event at 30 Rockefeller Plaza to advocate for improving the quality of education in America.
Hines and Goodell, who talked with NBC's Kate Snow, both spoke about involving community members in supporting student achievement.
"We have 180 million fans that watch football. That's great, but it comes with a lot of responsibility," Goodell said. He told msnbc.com he would love to see more football players follow in the footsteps of Randall McDaniel, who became a second-grade teacher after playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, who founded a charter school in 2007 that he became actively involved in following his retirement.
He also highlighted the role of exercise in learning, citing the NFL's new "Play 60" campaign, which encourages kids to do at least 60 minutes of activity daily.
"Our effort tells kids, 'You can do whatever you want as long as you're active,'" he said. The campaign was launched in response to studies showing children who get exercise perform better on exams and have higher attendance, he said.
To help children attain an hour of physical activity a day, the NFL works with local districts to finance P.E. teachers and equipment for schools that otherwise would have to eliminate gym classes.
"There's clearly a need to improve our education," said Goodell, a father of 9-year-old twins who attend public school. "We all have to do more."
More is exactly what "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Cheryl Hines hopes her new show, "School Pride," will inspire viewers to do. The reality TV show, which premieres Oct. 15 on NBC, will visit different cities around the country and work with parents, students and teachers to fix schools in disrepair.
"They're scraping gum and cleaning toilets, believe it or not," Hines said. "We want a school that we're proud of; we don't want our teachers to have to teach in a classroom where rain is coming in."
Hines says "School Pride" offers a realistic view of how underfunded education is.
"It's inexcusable that we have schools that are falling apart; it sends a terrible message to the kids," Hines said. She said she had visited schools that had rats running across the classroom tiles, and history books so outdated they only covered events prior to 1974.
"Some of these schools, you drive by or you see the test scores, and you feel like nobody cares," she said. "But I truly don't think that's the case."
Later Tuesday, six-time Grammy Award winner John Legend from The Roots discussed work he's been doing with Harlem Village Academy, a top-performing charter school in New York.
"Students are coming in in 4th grade reading at a 1st grade level, and graduating 8th grade with 100 percent proficiency," Legend told panel moderator Brian Williams of NBC. "What are the barriers to making all our schools that great?"