A couple years ago, civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy I. Height I and I were hanging out together, and Jena Roscoe, my chief of government relations, mentioned that I had succeeded in finally getting my personal hero and mentor Ambassador Andrew Young, another civil rights icon, hooked on the iPod, of all things. Well, Ambassador Young took to technology like fish to water, and today listens to countless "books on tape" through his prized iPod, even purchasing and downloading newly released ebooks on his own, just like he had been doing it all his life. Anyway, Dr. Height was not having it.
Happy for our friend and role model Andrew Young, she said to me, "okay, you have taken care of Andy, and that is good, but John when am I going to join the iPod and Internet generation? I want to do it all." I was without words. Here is a 95 year-young women of the history books, telling me she wants an iPod so she can get the latest music and books, and a 21st century computer that can search the World Wide Web to her delight! I loved it. Well, a year past, and she thought that I had forgotten. And then several months more passed, and still not a peep from me.
But during the week of Christmas, 2007, Jena Roscoe and I dropped in on Dr. Height, and I asked her if she was still interested. She said enthusiastically, "yes I am!" And so, I vowed I would get her a computer before the new year that met all of her needs and wants, but I had not a clue from where, or how.
iaI left Dr. Height's office scratching my head, but committed to keeping my promise to this living legend who has had a personal relationship with every U.S. president since World War II. And so, I pinged (emailed) my friend and HOPE board member Brian Jones of Dell. After all, because of his leadership Dell Computers had become a major sponsor and provider of 20 new Dell computers and other needed equipment for the Anacostia HOPE Center in 2005, and then again in October, 2007, for the launch of the Harlem HOPE Center in New York. "Brian, I need help my friend. There is this living legend named…," I went on. His response was instantaneous. He did not know what Dell the company could or could not do in this instance, and particularly over the holidays (and Dell had already done plenty for Operation HOPE anyway up until this point) , but Brian said, "I would be happy and even honored to give her one myself, personally." Wow.
And so, true to his word, less than a week from our conversation and during a time when most people are focused almost exclusively on their own families, and priorities, Brian Jones reached out selflessly to serve others, and in this case literally one who is a living testimony of America's great and inspiring history, and hope, Dr. Dorothy I. Height.
As the story goes, and to both Dr. Height and my own personal amazement, Brian and Jena showed up to Dr. Height's home with a complete, new Dell computer set up, software and everything else she could possibly need or want included. They even took the time to set it all up, removing the old clunker of a computer that had sat there for a decade, and which the ever progressive Dr. Height had steadfastly refused to use. After all, it could not even connect with the Internet (smile).
I think I got the greatest chuckle when I was told what Dr. Height said after it was all set up on her home office desk. "How beautiful this is, thank you," she said, then passing her eyes to the left, eying the old remaining clunker of a dot-matrix printer from who knows how long ago, and said "…but what are we going to do about THAT thing? Can you PLEASE get rid of IT! That will just have to go." Hilarious. We will get you a new laster quality printer too Ms. 21st Century Internet Guru — Dr. Dorothy I. Height.
After all of this was over, several people familiar with this whole affair told me "thank you," but they really should not have. You see, former President Bill Clinton is correct in his bestselling book GIVING, "it feels good to give." I got a very nice email from Brian, thanking ME for the opportunity to do something nice, and to spend some time with the great Dr. Height. You are welcome Brian, but you really are the one deserving of thanks my friend. How many corporate executives would do what he did? Dell is lucky to have this man on its corporate team, as he has single-handedly increased the company's brand value with this act of class and graciousness.
But the real priceless gift for me, at Christmas, came from what sounded like a giddy, 16-year old girl calling and leaving a message for me, …but it was an excited and ever-appreciative (and classy) Dr. Dorothy I. Height, letting me know that this gesture "made her Christmas." Well Dr. D.I. Height, on behalf of Brian Jones, Jena Roscoe, the Operation HOPE family, let me just say that simply seeing your joy, and happiness, made our Christmas as well.
Pass it on.
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant