This is literally my mother, Ms. Juanita Smith, but I am not simply being sentimental here.  She IS the mother of financial literacy, leading to financial dignity, that I know in my life. 

When we were growing up my mother divorced my dad, essentially over money and how decisions were impacting the children.  My dad is a good man and is the reason I am an entrepreneur today, but mom was the financial model — and she was not playing!  I tell her story in more fullness in my bestselling business book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass).

My mother believed in investing her time and her money.  She accepted a job, far below her know-how and skills, as the janitor in my elementary school, just so that she could watch over me.  Before that, she started a nursery business, so that she had a (funded) excuse to spend time with me early in my formative years.  What a women.

Later on, she went on to work at McDonald Douglas Aircraft and Boeing Aircraft, where the enterprising Ms. Juanita also sold candy and handy-craft (which she also made with her own hands) to fellow coworkers.  My mother quietly bought and sold five houses during the time we were growing up, and today when my mother says she "owns" a home, she means that.  Or if you hear my mother says she "owns" a car, she means she has no car note.

My mother was, is and remains nothing short of amazing.  My mother was the main financial literacy teacher in my world, even before that banker showed up in my classroom at age 10, "unpacking the universal language of money," and today she is the very definition of what financial dignity "looks like."

I love this woman.  I am who I am today, because she never let up, never gave in, and never compromised the love she held for her children.  Today, Dave Harris, Mara Hoskin and John Hope Bryant are on the right track, because of one Mrs. Juanita Smith.  Thank you mom.


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. 


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