Talk about an inspiring evening. Last night was a bit of an out-of-body experience for me, as I had to actually tell myself that this was not a dream. Lance Triggs (who runs the HOPE Center network and has been with me for more than 15 years now) and I had dreamed up an entrepreneurship and small business program for adults (Mary Hagerty, who runs our youth agenda, is now working on one for young people), and now we were seeing the manifestation of that vision --- in real people's lives. The room was packed.
We are not talking about VIPs, celebrities, congressman and women and senior government staff, which so often are the focus of attention of DC nights; we are talking real people here. The heart of America, and of a city. Real people, without whom, America cannot have a city that works, and without whom, America will in time lose herself. But these people -- these people were reclaiming themselves, their lives, their dreams, and their empowerment; and with that promise, to themselves, they were also helping to reclaim the best of America too.
The graduation was nothing short of inspiring, as each graduate proudly walked up to get their certificate of completion, and to talk boldly about - not just one business, but often one or two that they were moving forward with. These individuals were not going to wait for anyone to save them, including our government. These individuals, were focused on SAVING THEMSELVES.
In a time of "no jobs," these individuals have committed to becoming self-employment projects, small business owners, and entrepreneurs for a new generation of "the American ideal, about America's ideas."
A special thank you and congrats to Jahi B. Davis, Assistant Vice President for the HOPE Center, DC-Anacostia, as well as Ms. Little and the entire HOPE Center staff who made last night a reality. Proud of you all.
Last night was a little piece of history, as this is the re-birth of a nation. This is the continuation of Dr. King's dream, if I have ever seen it. When Dr. King was killed, he was squarely focused on the "Poor People's Campaign," which was about eradicating poverty for all people, and not just black people (there are more poor whites in America than poor anyone else). And so, I end this with a little known Dr. King quote;
"You cannot legislate goodness, nor force someone to respect you....the only way to social justice, in America, is through eco nomic parity. Ownership."
A special thank you to my government relations chief Jena Roscoe, for getting me there last night, and to E TRADE FINANCIAL, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (our principal sponsors for this Center) for allowing us to live the dream of the DC-Anacostia HOPE Center.
Okay, let's go.
John Hope Bryant is founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, bestselling author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and a member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama