I do it for THIS reason. To see THIS expression on a young person's face. Just look at this ~ it is literally priceless. And all I had to do here was to sign and give him a copy of my bestselling business book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass). Did you "get" what I just said? I gave the young man a BUSINESS book. Not fiction (all good by the way), or a comic, or some rap lyrics (all good too). But a book on business and leadership, and inspired in the right way, this young man just lit up like a Christmas tree.
This is why I do what I do, and why I believe so passionately in our work in financial dignity at Operation HOPE, and the promise of the silver rights movement.
Our young people increasingly don't have something tangible of even aspirational to believe in, and as a result, we are losing them.
I use to think that kids who wanted to be a rap star (only), a professional athlete (only), or a drug dealer (God forbid, please) was either dumb or stupid. But now I understand that they are brilliant. Brilliant because the are successfully modeling what they "see." We have GOT to give them something different to see.
In other words, it is not the kid's fault, it is ours.
Look at this young man's face — a part of the L.E.A.D. program in Atlanta, Georgia. He may get into fights or whatever that temporarily distract young men at his age growing up in "the hood" (the inner-city), but this kid is NOT dropping out of high school. This kid is GOING to college. How do I know you ask? Again, just look at his face. This isn't rocket science. He believes again. In HIMSELF.
He believes in the American dream, again.
He believes that all things are possible, again.
He believes that HE can do it, again.
The endorphins are "firing" in his head about what he can do, and who he can be, again.
The kid has become the dream, and thus it is real for him, again.
I believe that our youth are dropping out of high school for one simple reason. They don't believe that education is relevant to their future. The way to make education relevant to their future is to show kids how to be successful in life. That means financial literacy leading to financial dignity. That means free enterprise and capitalism, entrepreneurship, ownership, opportunity and aspiration. That may mean also showing kids how to become wealthy, legally, if wealth is what they seek.
Our Gallup-HOPE Index showed that 91% of all our kids are not afraid to take risks. That means that they are not lazy or lacking basic "get up and go in their lives." It also showed that 77% of our kids want to be their own boss. That is a big wow…. But only 5% of our kids have a business role model or business mentorship. That's a problem, and if we don't solve that. If we don't find a way to bridge that, our great American story is done. We must bridge the 77% and the 5% in our kids lives, today.
Giving a kid a lecture about graduation is not going to do it. All you will do is to put the kid asleep or turn him or her off from you. Show that young person how to be successful in their life and you have got them, for life!
We must simply reconnect education with aspiration and aspiration with education, and then we have a system re-hardwired for success. That is what I and we at Operation HOPE will be talking about all next week, as we roll out our own unique business plan to make this happen in and for America.
This is the new civil rights movement, and we call it silver rights empowerment.
Buckle up and stay tuned!
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) the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum.