Earlier today I was deeply honored, and touched, to be asked to be the closing keynote speaker for Steve Harvey's (Foundation) Mentoring Weekend, on Father's Day, no less. And I wasn't the only man to "show up" in these young men's lives over 4-intensive days. Steve Harvey made sure they heard from everyone from Denzel Washington, to pilots and professionals, and even a team from our U.S. military, who worked with the young men for the entire time they were there with Steve and his team in Dallas.
My message to them was simple; I was not there to celebrate them, but to challenge them to be great, and to set out to change the world. To not harp on what they don't have (a father at home maybe), but what they do have (a loving mother that brought them to this incredible life-changing event, and a team of mentors and role models who are investing in their future, as an example). To quote one of my mentors Quincy Jones, "we need a moratorium on childhood trauma." We just need to find a way to get over what is bothering us, and holding us back, and to move on with our lives.
I told them what my mentor Ambassador Andrew Young told me (the three things that will hold you back and cause you to fail in life, are pride, arrogance, and greed).
I told them what my mentor Quincy Reverend Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray told me (it's not what people call you, it's what you answer to that's important, and never, ever answer out of your name. And then I added, "to argue with a fool, proves there are two.").
I told them what my mentor Dr. Dorothy I. Height told me (be a dreamer, with a shovel in their hands).
I told them what I had to say to them (there are three type of birds, like three type of people. There are Eagles, Buzzards, and there are Turkeys. Be an Eagle).
I challenged them to rise above their stations in this world, to use their pain as a workbench for the success that is waiting for them in their future, and to never, ever give up.
I encouraged them, to live for something larger and more important in their lives. That black America will fail, without the restoration of the family unit. And that they were — this generation must become — that restoration.
In closing, I asked them what kind of man they would allow their daughter (thinking now 20 years forward in their lives) to marry, and was it any of the so-called-cool knuckleheads they see standing on street corners in their neighborhoods. The answer was a resounding "no." Well, this answer also challenged the concept of who they hang around, who they admire, and who they want to emulate.
I told them that the Native American Indian believes that "every decision you make, impacts seven generations yet unborn," and that this day, this historic time we are living in, represents a "1 in 100 year opportunity to change the world." What were they going to do about it, or with it.
I spontaneously committed to gift each graduate of the Weekend with a copy of my bestselling business book on leadership, LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and to stay in touch with them as they now embarked on this journey called life.
I left more inspired than I arrived, and this only proves what we all already know; our children, our young people, are our hope.
A special thank you the Operation HOPE, Atlanta Office for supporting the Steve Harvey Foundation weekend with programming, and for Patrice Washington of Operation HOPE, Atlanta (HOPE Express at Ebenezer staff) for traveling, over her weekend, to Dallas to provide Banking on Our Future programming for the young men present. You and your husband (with the Harvey Foundation) are helping to change the world.
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama