Les Brown (Public speaker and author)
According to his book, Live Your Dreams (William Morrow and Company) motivational speaker and television personality Les Brown says he came up the hard way. Born into poverty, adopted and raised by a single mother, he was labeled by others "educable mentally retarded" as a youth. However, he proved the labelers wrong by turning out to be one of the most successful motivational speakers to many Fortune 500 companies. His two most important role models to whom he attributes much of his success are his mother and a teacher named Mr. Washington.
According to Brown, his "mama" (Mamie Brown, the young woman who adopted him) was a "no matter what" person. "We may not have gotten lots of toys at Christmastime, but we always had plenty of food and clean, ironed clothing hand-me downs from the children of the families Mama worked for. My mother was a provider and a protector--a ferocious protector."
In high school Brown came into contact with the empowering influence of Mr. Leroy Washington, the school's speech and drama teacher. Since his mother had instilled in him the love of storytelling leaving Les mesmerized for hours listening to her tales, he was drawn to Mr. Washington for the same reason. From the moment he first heard Mr. Washington speak, Les Brown wanted to be one of his star pupils.
Thanks to his mother and Mr. Washington, Les Brown grew up with the subconscious conviction that he was going to be somebody, and nurture his own self-esteem. Because of that, there was no room in his life for drugs, alcohol or criminal behavior. He shed the "educable mentally retarded" label with Mr. Washington's help and now helps others climb out of their "mental cellars." In 1991, Brown's company, Les Brown Unlimited, took in more than a million dollars in speaking fees and from the sale of his videotapes and audio tapes. Today, Les Brown speaks around the country to Fortune 500 companies as well as conducting personal and professional seminars. He has made inspirational and motivational speeches on PBS specials and other public television stations. His book's powerful message is not just for the entrepreneur looking to make money, but for the community leader, salesperson, the teacher, the parent, and the child all those who want to create a truly happy and fulfilling life, for themselves and for others.
This article was reprinted with permission from Single Mother, July/August 1993, Issue #13 Copyright 1995 by Single Mother. All rights reserved. This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner, including electronic, without prior written consent from Single Mother. Permission requests may be submitted to Andrea Engber.