Archive for the ‘Speeches’ Category

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“The Point of Life”

June 26, 2013


Today, I gave the Keynote Speech at George Westinghouse High School’s graduation. Above is the video. Below is the full text as prepared. I graduated from the school in 2005. This is my most important, greatest and shortest speech I’ve given so far. I’m so thankful and honored for the opportunity. Eight years ago, I never thought I would be where I am today. I’m so glad that I got to see my former guidance counselor and favorite teacher. This speech was two months in the making. With the mindset of what would I like to know in high school that I know now, I wrote the first draft the night that I heard I was selected. I revised and practiced it since then. Now, the full text:

Beating the odds may seem like a strange concept at first. But, it is indeed a phrase with a powerful meaning. It means to overcome a challenge or struggle. Believe it or not, all of us have odds we must overcome.

I grew up in a home where my parents fought each other very often. I grew up in a home where my parents were more focused on their packs of beer than my education and doings. I grew up in a home where I didn’t let myself be full, so my siblings can be full. Since my parents weren’t invested in my siblings, I had to be there for them too. While going to Westinghouse, I realized that the life of being on Public Assistance and living in the projects in East New York isn’t a good life at all. Being in Pace University’s Upward Bound Program in the tenth grade made me realize that education was my only way out.

Upon graduating Westinghouse, where I saw half of my class disappear since the ninth grade, I got into Skidmore College’s Higher Education Opportunity Program. At Skidmore, I’ve seen how things were better on the other side. I developed leadership skills in creating a Hip Hop Culture club called Hip Hop Alliance, where we talked about racism, sexism, and homophobia and successfully pushed for a Hip Hop Culture class. I learned more about myself, new heroes and poverty in my major American Studies. I met two mentors in college who pushed me to give back even more.

Listening to them, I became a mentor to two middle school students who were Hispanic. After I graduated from college, without loans, I became a mentor to a Black high school student. In being a mentor to these boys, I shared my life story and knowledge of the world with them. From there, I started teaching activism classes in the same Upward Bound Program I was in. I also became the co-chair of the Youth Ministry at my church in East New York.

In doing all of this, I started speaking to young people like you about progressing in the world and the evils of poverty at various events. At the same time, I came out with a book with my recent mentee promoting mentoring and giving advice to young people called Different Families, Still Brothers. Now, I help students like you get into colleges like Skidmore for Pace University’s Liberty Partnerships Program at the High School of Economics and Finance.

Want to know the crazy part of my story? When I went to Westinghouse, I couldn’t speak at all. I stuttered a lot. Barely anyone understood me. I was shy. This struggle made me cry at night. I started to come out of my shyness when I volunteered in various things like Open School Night and founded a Video Game Club where I put on tournaments. I fully came out of my shell in college with the encouragement of my best friend Mike Thomas. I was never able to express my story verbally into I took acting classes and hosted a radio show in college. Now, the boy who was scared to talk to people is helping people get to the next level. Now, the boy who thought he didn’t have a voice is showing you how golden his voice is.

All of you graduates have beaten a set of odds, but I’m here to tell you all that this is just the beginning. You are going to be beating the odds all your life, from college to graduate school to career to raising a family. The toughest obstacle to overcome is your own self. There will be times where you will ask yourself: “why me?” There will be times where you ask yourself: “what’s the point?” There will be times where you feel like giving up. But, you must remember these words President Obama once said, “Being defeated is a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”

We are our worst enemy. We must fight ourselves. It can be done. If you have a dream, believe in yourself, work hard towards making that dream a reality, you will achieve it. Muhammad Ali once said, “Even the greatest have to suffer sometime.” All of you are great, indeed. Don’t let your suffering ever stop you. Let it push you to new heights!

And when you reach those heights, don’t forget when you came from. Don’t forget that there are brothers and sisters who suffer the same things you have suffered. The point of life is not to become rich. Becoming rich creates a sense of selfishness for most people. You can’t take it all with you when you pass away. It won’t bring you happiness.

The point of life is to overcome the odds and build others up to do the same. This is what will bring you happiness. This will bring a sense of fulfillment in your life.

You never know, one day you can be up here speaking to your alma mater too. If there is anything I can help you with, feel free to reach out to me via email, Facebook or Twitter. I wish you all the best in whatever you do. Stay strong. Keep it pushing. Peace be on to you all, brothers and sisters. God bless!

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“Poverty: Bigger Than the Block”

October 13, 2012


A lecture by me about what poor people in America endure and why we need to stand up for them. It was given at Free University Week.

In this video, I also talk about a new book I have coming out with my mentee. It is called Different Families, Still Brothers.

The book cover

It showcases the benefits of mentoring. It contains of two years worth of email exchanges between my mentee and I while they were in the iMentor program based in New York City. I give my mentee advice on the college application process, financial aid, dealing with the pressures of high school and so much more. We also share our stories of overcoming the many factors of poverty with each other. The book serves as a motivator for young people coming up in a crazy world.

It includes an introduction essay written by me called “The Importance of Mentoring.” In it, I encourage those who came from impoverished backgrounds to mentor and those who don’t know what it is like to be poor to do research to better serve those in poverty. Next week, I will post part of that essay.

The book will come out on November 1st, my 25th birthday, on Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle app for any of your devices.

If you would like me to speak, lead a discussion, Bible Study or workshop at your meeting, event, conference or school, visit my website for more information.

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“God’s Call to be About the People”

July 30, 2012

A sermon by me. I gave it at my church.

Bible verses come from the New International Version.
The Word used in order:
Matthew 18: 3-6
Matthew 7: 1-2
Matthew 6: 1-4
Leviticus 19: 33-34
Leviticus 25: 35-37
Exodus 23: 6-7
Matthew 25: 40
Matthew 25: 45
1 Peter 5: 2-3
Ezekiel 34: 8-10
1 Corinthians 12
Matthew 12: 25
Luke 10: 25-37

Check out my website for my speaking services and more!

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My Testimony for Baptism

June 13, 2011

About to Enter Christ


Yesterday was my baptism. It was the most overwhelming experience of my life. I feel renewed. I feel like I get to start over. I feel like I have the chance to be 100% honest with myself and others. I’m sorry to those I have ever done wrong to. I hope you can forgive me. Thank you to those who showed up. I’m really moved by your attendance. To those who didn’t show up, I’m not mad. I understand. I love you no matter what the reason was for your not being there, even if that reason was not wanting to go/wanting to sleep in. I’m now posting the testimony I gave yesterday to show everyone how God made a difference in my life. So if you came late, wasn’t there at all or just wanted to see my words, here you go:

I was born unbaptized on November 1st 1987. I didn’t come to know God until high school, but God was always with me. He was with me when everything went downhill after my grandmother’s death. He was with me while I grew up in an violent home with alcoholic parents. In this home, I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t be a kid. This place was a jail to me. I had to grow up quickly to be there for my brother and sister.

God was with me while my parents didn’t pay attention to my education and doings. The odds were stacked against me. But He didn’t give up on me. In high school, I came to the Church of the Holy Redeemer seeking refuge. The power of God and the love I received here kept me coming back.

Upon graduating college, I entered a dark place in my mind. I was back at my parents’ house because the lack of health insurance prevented me from joining a public service program. Once at home, my father made me feel less of myself with his jealousy filled comments. I soon felt all of the reasons why I went away to college returning. On top of that, I was having a difficult time finding a job.

God blessed me with the current job I have now. I moved out, but I was still going deeper and deeper into a dark place. I relied on people. I craved the physical presence of anyone. I was drinking on my own to escape from the reality of being alone. I was going to leave the Holy Redeemer to find a church closer to me…at least that’s what I said to myself.

Every Sunday, I would intend on resigning from being the co-chair of the Youth Ministry. But something kept pulling me back. Something sealed my mouth. Even at that time, I felt myself losing the desire to do public service. Apathy exists all around me and is contagious.

But then, I woke up. I discovered what I was set out to do by God. I got more in touch with Him. If there is one thing I learned in the baptism classes, it is what my one of inspirations Martin Luther King said in a sermon entitled “A Tough Mind and A Tender Heart,” “[God] does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.”

I’m not alone. God’s with me. He has always been there for me especially when my grandmother passed away up to this point. I thank Him for keeping me strong. I thank Him for inspiring and empowering me to push on forward. I thank Him for all He’s doing for my family, for all my fellow brothers and sisters and for myself at this present time and in the future.

I pray to Him in hopes that he forgives me for my own sins; the sins I don’t know of and do know of, such as cheating on a test, committing adultery, lying, stealing and doubting Him.

One of my favorite musical artists Kanye West once said, “I’ll never get cut, I’ll never get hurt, my heart will never hurt. No pain. And in a way, God delivered that to me, because there is nothing that can hurt me the way that things have hurt me in the recent past….he put me through so much that he helped turn me into this soldier. Every day he’s turning me more and more into the soldier that he needs me to be.”

I work for Him when I work for the people. I’m His warrior in the moral war for the people, for all of my brothers and sisters. Whenever I do something for any of you, don’t thank me. I don’t want that. I want you to thank God.

I forgive those who have done me wrong, even the greatest wrong done to me, rape. I don’t hold those wrongs against the wrongdoers. I love everyone! I wish God blesses you all!

Becaming Born Again

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The Forgotten Brother Part 3

June 6, 2011

His message must live on!


43 years ago today, Robert F. Kennedy passed away due to an assassin’s bullet…as so it’s told. For the past two days, I’ve been posting quotes that I’ve put up on Facebook from RFK’s Presidential campaign speeches. The speeches can be found in The Gospel According to RFK: Why it Matters Now. His words, along with many others during the 1960’s, are relevant to today. We must take in these words and make a change for the better! The following quotes came from Ted Kennedy who quoted his brother Robert during Robert’s memorial service. The last quote comes from Robert who was asked how he wants to be remembered. May the Lord bless his soul.

“There is a discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; and millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich; and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere.”

“…we can perhaps remember…that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek—as we do—nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”

“Our answer is to rely on youth—not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”

“Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man.”

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.”

“Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in the battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world…those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.”

“For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us.”

“The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American society.”

“Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny.”

“I think again back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I’d like to feel that I’d done something to lessen that suffering.”

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The Forgotten Brother Part 2

June 5, 2011

Down before he got to shine.


As I mentioned yesterday, RFK won California and South Dakota in the Democratic Primary, 43 years ago. He addressed a crowd at midnight in Los Angeles. After that, he was headed to a press conference in the hotel. On his way there, he would be shot. Here is the second round of quotes from his campaign.

“…I believe that once the active and concerned citizens of this nation organize, and build new bonds between themselves, to reassert control over our political lives—once we have done that, we will also be able to assert control over the government programs which so deeply affect our personal lives.”

“Despite all the discord and dispirit, despite all the extremists and their actions, there remains, in this country today, an enormous reservoir of hope and goodwill. Americans want to move forward; they want to better their communities, to make this country not only more livable for all Americans but a shining example for all of the world.”

“We must reach across the false barriers that divide us from our brothers and countrymen, to seek and find peace abroad, reconciliation at home and participation in the life of our country that is the deepest desire of the American people and the truest expression of our national goals.”

“Together we can attack the problems that seem so overwhelming, and master them.”

“…we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”

“…violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.”

“We learn…to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but on a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.”

“Should we be forced to turn our cities into garrisons then the liberty of every citizen will be diminished. If we do not bring about lasting peace then the day may come when no one will be able to send his child to school or to take a bus without fear. We must act, therefore, not only for the sake of the Negro, but for all of us and for the nation.”

“…if we try to look through the eyes of the young slum-dweller—the Negro, and the Puerto Rican, and the Mexican American—the world is a dark and hopeless place indeed.”

“…the people of the ghetto live today with an unemployment rate far worse than the rest of the nation knew during the depth of the Great Depression.”

“…the most immediate need is for a national impact project: to put men to work, to restore possibility to the young and to give the resident of the ghetto some sense that the nation is committed to fulfillment of his hopes.”

“…let us stop thinking of the poor—the dropouts, the unemployed, those on welfare, and those who work for poverty wages—as liabilities. Let us them for what they are: valuable resources, as people whose work can be directed to all these tasks to be done within our cities, and within the nation…”

“Our great strength—moral, political, economic, and military—must be used to seek peace with justice, to secure peace without fear. For those objectives, we must construct a foreign policy that will reassure the world of our judgment and our purposes.”

“…we must recognize that peace in the world means little to us unless we can preserve it at home. We cannot continue to deny and postpone the demands of our own people, while spending billions in the name of freedom for others.”

“The richest country in the world must be able to afford to feed its hungry people. The most prosperous society on the globe must be able to save its children from death, disease and despair that result from a lack of adequate food.”

“I call on all Americans—on the medical profession, on private industry, on the farmers, on government, and on all individuals to respond to the plight of these millions who are hungry.”

“Where the central interests of the United States are not directly threatened…We should give no more assistance to a government against any internal threat than that government is capable of using itself, through its agencies and instruments. We can help them but we cannot again try to do their jobs for them.”

“…the real constructive force in the world comes not from bombs, but from imaginative ideas, warm sympathies, and a generous spirit.”

“…Shall we continue to watch as medical costs soar beyond the reach of most Americans, condemning the poor to illness and the average American to the whim of fate—or are we going to act to make decent medical care something more than a luxury of the affluent?”

“Education, jobs, community participation, an end to hunger, these are the elements of a healthy citizenry. And they must be achieved. For it is neither economical nor compassionate to care for the consequences of poverty, and ignore its roots.”

“We can create new career opportunities in rural America which will not only avoid forcing people to leave their home communities if they do not wish to, but offer help in alleviating poverty and in providing adequate community social services…”

“…when one of us prospers, all of us prosper; and when one falters, so do we all.”

“Unemployment means having nothing to do—which means nothing to do with the rest of us. To be without work, to be without use to one’s fellow citizens, is to be in truth the Invisible Man of whom Ralph Ellison wrote…”

“We often quote Lincoln’s warning that America could not survive half slave and half free. Nor can it survive while millions of our people are slaves to dependency and poverty, waiting on the favor of their fellow citizens to write them checks.”

“What we do need…is a better liberalism and a better conservatism.”

“The environment in which we live is part of us; when we degrade it, we degrade ourselves…”

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The Forgotten Brother Part 1

June 4, 2011

What would've happened if he became President?


43 years old today, Robert F. Kennedy was on his way to getting the Democratic Presidential nomination. This day, he won California and South Dakota. Later that evening, he would meet his end. I recently got into the Senator. I didn’t know much about him and the people I knew didn’t know either. Once I read his speeches from his campaign, I thought to myself what would’ve happened if he became President? I’ve never heard any public official speak on poverty like that. After finishing the book above (click the photo if you would like to buy it), I’ve decided to share some quotes from the speeches. Let’s all be like this Robert F. Kennedy!

“I run to seek new policies—policies to close the gaps between black and white, rich and poor, young and old, in this country and around the world. I run for the presidency because I want the Democratic Party and the United States of America to stand for hope instead of despair, for reconciliation of men instead of the growing risk of world war.”

“…these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election. At stake is not simply the leadership of our party or even our country—it is our right to the moral leadership on this planet.”

“If we examine the history of this conflict, we find the dismal story repeated time after time…at every crisis…we have denied that anything was wrong; sent more troops; and issued more confident communiques…we have been assured that this one last step would bring victory…the predictions and promises have failed and been forgotten, and the demand has been made again for just one more step up the ladder.”

“If the government’s troops will not or cannot carry the fight for their cities, we cannot ourselves destroy [the cities]. That kind of salvation is not an act we can presume to perform for them. For we must ask our government—we must ask ourselves: where does such logic end?”

“What we must ask ourselves is whether we have a right to bring so much destruction to another land without clear and convincing evidence that this is what its people want. But that is precisely the evidence we do not have. What they want is peace, not dominated by any outside forces.”

“…it is long past time to ask: what is this war doing to us? Of course it is costing us money…but that is the smallest price we pay. The cost is in our young men, the tens of thousands of their lives cut off forever. The cost is in our world position—in neutrals and allies alike, every day more baffled by and estranged from a policy they cannot understand.”

“If young boys and girls are so filled with despair when they are going to high school and feel that their lives are so hopeless and that nobody’s going to care for them, nobody’s going to be involved with them, nobody’s going to bother with them, that they either hang themselves, shoot themselves, or kill themselves—I don’t think that’s acceptable…I think we can do much, much better.”

“If we believe that we as Americans are bound together by a common concern for each other, than an urgent national priority is upon us. We must began to end the disgrace of this other America. And this is one of the great tasks of leadership for us, as individuals and citizens this year.”

“But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task. It is to confront the poverty of satisfaction, purpose, and dignity that inflicts us all. Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.”

“Those who now call for an end to dissent…seem not to understand what this country is all about. For debate and dissent are the very heart of the American process. We have followed the wisdom of Greece: ‘All things are to be examined and brought into question. There is no set limit to thought.'”

“…our happiness will come not from goods we have, but from the good we do together.”

“…the work we must do is not for the benefit of any one of our peoples: It is work we must do for all Americans.”

“All [disadvantaged] Americans are joined by the bond of injustice—and all these Americans must be freed by a strong, determined national effort—not an effort which merely swells our budget with programs which will not free these Americans—but an effort which will provide jobs, not welfare doles; decent homes, not slums standing on the foundation of federal indifference.”

“All of us, from the wealthiest and most powerful of men, to the weakest and hungriest of children, share one precious possession: the name ‘American.'”

“We have assumed that more federal funds are the only answer to our problems. I believe the time has come for the leadership of America to put its trust in the hands of the people—and to meet the great domestic challenges of our time with programs shaped and run by the citizens themselves.”

“The loss of participation is a loss which affects all of us…”

“Together, we can make this a nation where young people do not seek the false peace of drugs. Together, we can make this a nation where old people are not shunted off; where, regardless of the color of his skin or the place of birth of his father, ever citizen will have an equal chance at dignity and decency.”

“We have been stripped of goals and values and direction, as we move aimlessly and rather futilely from crisis to crisis and danger to danger. And the record shows that kind of approach will not only not solve problems, it will only deepen them.”

“This is a time to create, not destroy. This is a time for men to work out of a sense of decency, not bitterness. This is a time to begin again…”

“It is time to begin rebuilding the Grand Alliance—to repair the bonds of trust and confidence of those historic allies whose friendship has been the basis of our own security so many times in the past.”

“It is time to recall ourselves to our true responsibilities in the world: to recognize that we cannot sit frozen in indifference while everyday, 10,000 fellow human beings starve elsewhere in the world; that it is a monstrous disproportion that we should buy eight million new cars a year while most of the world goes without shoes.”

‎”[César Chávez’s] message says that dignity is not something awarded coldly in a welfare office. This message says that dignity is something a man attains with his mind, with the labor of his body, with his belief in himself. It is not something you buy in a supermarket.”

“…this country must insure that Mexican Americans do not have to bleed for a living. I want to see an America where Mexican Americans produce featherweight champions of the world, but also space engineers, doctors of letters, great novelists, fine composers and Nobel Prize winners.”

“America should allow them to be anything which their talent and intelligence can make them. If America fails these young people, if through indifference or callousness they are denied jobs, opportunities, or education, then the American dream will have failed. I do not believe America will fail. Together we can build an America that can give these children the open door to the future. That is why I am here.”

“Together we can make ourselves a nation that spends more on books than on bombs, more on hospitals than the terrible tools of war, more on decent houses than military aircraft.”

“…I am on the side of those who are not afraid to admit past mistakes…”