Him — Ambassador Andrew Young — he was born young in spirit and literally does not seem to age. If anyone has the ability to stay forever young, and to grow in wisdom, it is Ambassador Andrew Young. Well, hanging around him, I was able to do what seems to be the impossible last week — get YOUNGER, no pun intended.
Inspired by an observation by a dear friend, I began to think about this issue of "aging." How it happens that people can go through something truly traumatic in their life, like living through a life threatening experience or an emotional anguish that goes on for years, and they literally age 10 years in one (year). You can see it. Many people say the American Presidency does it to the men who have occupied that seat. I think that is about right. President Clinton and President Bush both aged in office. Stress times a million is what you call that. But can someone get "younger?" That was a new one for me, but it has to make sense on some level, you know? Quoting Deepak Chopra, "we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience…" It must be able to work….well, backwards!
All I know is I feel about 10 years younger than April 11th, 2005, the morning before Ambassador Young and I stood at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, along with civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy Height, and called for "a new movement in America." A silver rights movement. But I feel younger…for reasons that may not be entirely obvious. Let me explain…
For as long as I can remember folks have been underestimating me and the organization I founded, Operation HOPE, and early on, those were my "positive" interactions. In the early years following the founding of Operation HOPE, immediately following the worst civil unrest in U.S. history, what many call the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, California, most establishment leaders simply dismissed Operation HOPE as "a flash in the pan." Just wait, many would say, it and he (that John Bryant guy…) will pass. Hmmmm… God is good. That is all I have to say.
Close to 13 years later, Operation HOPE is a long way from that $61,000 first year budget and a crazy vision to change the world (or so people thought…). Today Operation HOPE has an annual operating budget of more than $8 million, with 80% of that funded by the private sector, operations in 12 states, 16 cities and the District of Columbia, and an undisputed track record for delivering real and sustainable results in the under-served and low-wealth communities we serve. God is good…
But that is not what I am talking about either. You see, Operation HOPE and the substance filled work it does speaks for itself. Who can argue with children receiving financial literacy education, adults receiving economic education and families and entire communities getting the benefit of our powerful economic empowerment agenda. What is more elusive, and easier to discuss frankly, is my own bold, more expansive vision for a new 21st century America. And my Silver Rights Movement.
Sure, I have been talking about this "movement" for years now, …but an individual and the quality of his or her ideas can be judged, at least in part, by the company they keep. Who – least of which being myself – would have ever as much as thought, yet alone suggested, or actually seriously proposed…that the very essence of the civil rights movement, in name of Ambassador Andrew Young, the closest lieutenant to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy Height, a lady of pure class and substance, would not only embrace me and my work, but call for the "next movement" on my behalf….THE SILVER RIGHTS MOVEMENT." And this is just what happened in Atlanta, Georgia on April 12th, 2005. Wow…. humbling, to say the least. It just does not get any better than this.
And so, I feel lighter, younger…affirmed at the highest level possible for what I want to do with my life’s work. As I have said, it simply does not get much better than Ambassador Andrew Young, who I refer to as "our domestic Nelson Mandela," and Dr. Dorothy Height." I am also, well, …relaxed. Relaxed really, for the first time in 13 years. I knew I was onto something — that I was on the right track — because God told me so, affirming it with every good decision made at, through and as a direct result of my intuitive sense of things. But how can I "know" something for sure, when it relies in part on a history that came before me, you know? "From civil rights…to silver rights," presumes a great deal my friends. I approached the topic carefully, but at the end of the day, "I was not there in 1958, or 1959, or 1960, 1961, and so on, and so on." I was not there. But like countless millions in our country and around the world, I had read about those who were there — and I was without words. And so, here I am, SITTING NEXT TO TWO OF THESE VERY SAME ICONS, …hearing them use a terminology of my own design — "silver rights, and the silver rights movement…" I have no words… And that is why it has taken me days to even "begin" to write a post about the magic of April 12th, 2005.
And so, over the next couple of weeks I will be recording several posts which will highlight and feature different aspects of this special day; a day in which many participants described as "historic." You will also soon be able to see at least part of the magic on television, as C-SPAN broadcasts the Issue Forum to more than 84
million households, and Urban American Television Network and MoneyWise on PBS broadcast their respective shows, taped on site. But at the end of the day, there will be a part of what happened on April 12th, 2005, in Atlanta, Georgia, that I will simply not be able to communicate. It is….well, too intensively personal. Too intimate, for words. It is the feeling that almost brought me to tears as the microphone was first passed to me by Dr. Height during the opening session. Indescribable, frankly…but the spirit knows. And for that I am grateful.
As I I close this day’s chapter of this story, and turn this particular page, I can share with you at least "a part" of Ambassador Young’s youth. After a long day, which included a Banking on Our Future teaching session at 8am at Jean Childs Young Middle School, named after his late wife, and Andrew "Bo" Young, III’s mother, a hosted luncheon, several back to back media interviews, two issue forum panels, for which he fully participated (as did Dr. Height, I might add!), and then a closing reception at 7pm that evening, Ambassador Young came up to me and said, "hey John, I am going to have to pass on that dinner tonight, …I am going swimming at the YMCA." Can you BELIEVE this man! He went on a mile SWIM after this day — when most folks half his age were wiped out simply from sitting around half of the day taking it all in!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is part of why he is so amazing, on every level one chooses to calculate. And why he is my HERO.
His absolute passion for God, love, and life, …and his absolute commitment to living his truth. Not some days, but every day.
Thank you God, for giving us Andrew Young. Thank you God, for allowing me to know him. I am better because of it…
P.S. Thank you Andrew "Bo" Young, III, my co-chair for the day! I am clear on THIS — none of this would have happened without you my friend. We have only just begun…
Onward, with HOPE