Renowned leader brings message of HOPE to Livingstone, reprint from the Salisbury Post
"There is a difference between broke and being poor. Being broke is a temporary economic condition, but being poor is a disabling frame of mind and a depressed condition of your spirit, and you must vow to never, ever be poor again." — John Hope Bryant
A global economic leader and empowerment speaker brought a rousing message of hope to Livingstone College students Friday, urging them to work hard, strive for excellence and never give up.
Using Dr. Martin Luther King as an example of the importance of perseverance, John Hope Bryant said the Civil Rights leader gave his "I Have a Dream" speech a hundred times before it struck the heart of a nation in the historic Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington, D.C.
By the 55th time, he said King could have given up and gone home. "I'm sure by the 85th speech, he was sick and tired of being sick and tired," Bryant said.
"What would have happened if Martin Luther King Jr. had given up after the 99th time?" he asked. "There would be no Barack Obama, president of the United States of America.
"There would be no you."
Bryant — the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE and vice chairman of the United States President's Council on Financial Literacy — was the keynote speaker at the annual Fall Convocation in James Varick Auditorium.
He threw out motivational quotes like Frisbees, challenging students to rise to their highest potential and grab success. "If you believe you can and you can't, you're right," he said. "Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."
Raised in Compton and South Central Los Angeles, Bryant was an entrepreneur by age 10, making $300 a week selling candy out of his home. By age 25, he had built a $24 million business.
His road to success was not always smooth. Bryant said he struggled at times and was even homeless for six months, living out of his Jeep.
Speaking to students wanting to become entrepreneurs or business owners, he said they may have to work 18 to 20 hours a day "to keep from getting a job."
Working 8 to 5 is mediocre, he said. "Eight to 10 is excellence."
Bryant told the students they were fortunate to have parents who value the importance of education. Not everyone has that opportunity, he said, but it's never too late.
His mother went back to high school to get her GED at age 62 and graduated in her cap and gown with 18-year-olds. She had "no shame," he said, "much pride."
Bryant quoted the first line of "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck, "Life is difficult," adding that it can be even more difficult for African-Americans.
"Black folks, we have been doing so much with so little for so long," he said, "we can about do anything with nothing."
"If you're born black in America, you're born on probation," he said. They sometimes have to work twice as hard in life.
"Don't get angry," Bryant said. "God doesn't want you angry. It's a useless emotion."
Passion and a desire to change the world can propel a person to success, he said. But before they can be successful, Bryant told the students they must have positive self-esteem and love for themselves.
"If I don't love me, I have no idea how to love you," he said.
The bottom line, Bryant said, is that students have to decide which of three kinds of birds they want to be like: an eagle, a buzzard or a turkey.
"Eagles don't fly in packs," he said. "You don't ever see a flock of eagles."
Bryant said eagles even raise their young differently, making nests from sharp little twigs. A bird that stays in too long will feel those sharp twigs push up against it.
"You need to get up and get a job," he said. "You can't be 48 years old and living with your mother."
Eagles are high-altitude birds, Bryant said. "There's something regal about an eagle, very much like you."
Buzzards, on the other hand, love packs, he said. They'll step on others if they have to, he said, and say negative things about them.
The least desirable bird to be, however, he said, is a turkey. "They can't even fly," Bryant said. "All they do is profile."
He reminded the students that they are God's children and can do anything they want to do in life.
When he found out there wasn't a black leadership author, Bryant said he decided to write his own book. In August, "LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World" debuted at No. 8 on the CEO-Read Bestseller List.
"Don't tell me what you can't do," he challenged Livingstone's students. "What kind of bird do you want to be?"
"Eagles," the students shouted.
"That is real weak," Bryant responded.
"Eagles!" they shouted again, louder.
Bryant's Operation HOPE, America's first nonprofit social investment banking organization, now operates in 51 United States communities and South Africa and has raised more than $400 million from the private sector to empower the poor.
He was appointed as vice chairman of the United States President's Council on Financial Literacy by former President George W. Bush in 2008. Bryant also serves as chairman of the Under-Served Committee for the U.S. President's Council and on the Global Agenda Council for the World Economic Forum as advisor on financial literacy and financial empowerment.
He was chosen to speak on the subject of "Dignity for All" at the closing session for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, joining Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Professor Klaus Shwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum; H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway; and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland.
In his bestselling book, "Giving," former President Bill Clinton described Bryant as follows: "John Bryant is a 41-year-old whirlwind of ideas and action. Lean, intense, focused and completely positive in his belief in the potential of poor people to prosper, with a 'hand up and not a hand out.' "
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.