Saturday, August 4, 2012

Oprah's Stedman: I Am In The Oprah Box

Oprah Winfrey's beau, Stedman Graham, and his daughter Wendy were in Philadelphia for the family reunion of the Benjamin and Edith Spaulding Descendants Association.  Far from being a typical family reunion, where the relatives squabble, this reunion focused on entrepreneurship and empowerment.

Stedman gave an hour long inspirational talk based on his new book, "Identity:Your Passport to Success," which details 9 steps to success. Having attended many motivational talks as a broker on Wall Street, I can tell you that it was one of the best that I had heard.

"We were slaves," he said." "We are still slaves. I used to go into my gym in Chicago and black men that had Phd's were cleaning the toilets. Black men are still cleaning the toilets but now they do not have an education."

Stedman, who grew up in Whitesboro, New Jersey with two disabled brothers, was so angry as a teenager that he is surprised that he did not end up in prison. The army and playing basketball saved him.
Now he wants to help people to climb out of "their box". For many, the grinding daily routine of working $9 an hour jobs keeps them down. Even successful people are constrained by their boxes.

"I am in the race box," Stedman said. "I am in the Oprah box. It is a nice box to be in, but it is a box."

One of his secrets of success is to not let others define you. You have to respect yourself before others can. For that reason, he disdains use of the N word.

"When I was in Africa, someone called out the N word to me. I tried to tell him we don't use that word. He answered that all your songs use it. Rappers have marginalized our brand by using the N word."

Stedman suggests for the final step to success, commit to your vision, that you follow Oprah's advice-Be the best that you can be.

To highlight that point, he repeated Martin Luther King's "streetsweeper" speech.

If it falls your lot to be a street-sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say ‘Here lived a great street-sweeper who swept his job well."

By the time that he was done, I had chills down my spine. Oprah is one lucky lady. 

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