Keynote @ Pastor Carlton Burns – 20th Anniversary as pastor @ Pleasant Grove Baptist – Upper Marlboro, MD
One of the greatest lessons I have learned was out of the classroom. More than ever we must realize that we can have a dialogue without demeaning another. After two decades around politics at the highest level of government we can debate ideas but not at the expense of destroying individuals. My grandmother told me as a child that those who curse usually have a poor vocabulary and when we are deduced to go for the jugular vein of another person, race or ideology we often are not only ill prepared but not mature. The same student who received a “D” in public speaking (me) has now been invited to speak in SIX continents. Just in the past year, I was blessed to speak in Africa (twice), India, El Salvador, Romania, France and coast to coast in our great Country. When we connect with folks who look, talk and think differently we not only grow professionally but learn personally and more than not we realize that we have more in common than different. Some of my best friends are TOTALLY different than me and I am a better person for it. The picture above is my dear friend, Pastor Carlton Burns and he pastors an entirely African American congregation. When his church was throwing a surprise party for him last year they polled who would be the guest speaker and the church unanimously picked me! It is humbling but they view me as a brother from another mother. We find UNITY when we celebrate DIVERSITY.
In this combative culture both online and in person to really make a mark in life and climb to higher heights it is imperative to value, honor and respect others. John Maxwell is regarded as one of the experts world-wide on leadership and he said something that resonated in me, “if you walk into a room and you are the sharpest person in the room than you are in the WRONG ROOM!” We need others to stretch us and make us stronger just like iron sharpens iron. However, I take it a step further and note if you are in a room that folks only look, think, dress and talk just like you more than likely you are also in the wrong room! Even Jesus, the Savior hung out with sinners.
By my 45th birthday, I volunteered and served in FOUR different White Houses and twice the leader of the free world was different than my voting preference. Personally, I never turned down a White House invite from any administration because a light shines brightest in the dark. LESSON ONE: If you have to have all the stars lined up for you to serve than you will either never start or rarely learn anything past what you already know. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “you cannot influence if you are not in the room” and one person profoundly said “if you are not at the table than you are probably on the menu!” #Hello Let that marinate for a second. Earlier this Spring, I spoke to a high school one day and the next day while in another state I was speaking before House Members and Senators in a closed door meeting just off the House Floor in the State Capitol and then raced to another state to speak to address 500 elementary school students. One minute I am conversing with a homeless man in my hometown and the next moment taking a call from a celebrity in Hollywood. The following week we are at an event with a Major League Baseball player and the next week dining with wealthy business leaders only to have a meeting in the morning with members of the President’s Cabinet. One day boarding Air Force One and very next day on Southwest Airlines but first class living is honoring God and loving others. This is not dropping names or stretching the truth but unless we learn the “art” of being true to you but failing to connect with others we will never paint a masterpiece but live life a mess. We lose when we don’t adapt and respect others more than ourselves. It is hard to get promoted to the penthouse if our attitude is stuck in the basement. Read that again! #DropTheMic
Sometimes the difference between a major league contract and a minor league career is a few extra hits a month. Here are a few practical ways that will not only make you more marketable but more importantly more wealthy in life and I am not just talking money.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
- Look people in the eye when talking
- Be polite
- Show respect
- Listen more – talk less
- Hold the door for others
- Go old school – write THANK YOU notes
- Be generous and respectful to waiter/waitress
- Remember “cash without class is just trash.”
- Say your prayers – God is real
* Bonus – show appreciation and find a mentor to learn from and invest in someone behind you. True success is reaching UP and giving BACK.
In closing, the one with the most toys doesn’t win they still die. I try to visit two places periodically (cemetery and junk yard). The cemetery because life is short and my last day could be soon. Make the most of your life count and I visit the junk yard because today’s treasure is tomorrow’s trash. Don’t chase the temporal at the expense of the eternal. Losers cut corners but winners play fair and give their all. Inner city gangs are killing each other over colors and a desire for respect. You want respect? Then grow up and show kindness. It takes more guts to do right than wrong and that is worth living for. Remember, the next time you see someone different – pause, be respectful, listen and encourage them. Plus, we learn when we show love and I am thankful for the university of diversity because life would be boring if we were all the same.
Keynote @ Graduation – Kota, India
2012 Olympics – London, England
United States Capitol – Congress – Washington DC