Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
Skip to content

Motivational Speaker
Les Brown Wants More

2009 August 2
Les Brown

Les Brown

People didn’t expect much from the poor, “retarded” boy who flunked fifth and eight grades and never went to college. But motivational speaker Les Brown has since earned more than $55 million.

When Brown contacted the National Black Arts Festival about presenting a talk on the art of inspiration, program director Leatrice Ellzy told the audience all he asked for was a hotel room and airline tickets. The man we had seen give motivational talks on PBS for many years was once again a big-time philanthropist, just like he was when he “gave away” all those books and cassette tapes when callers donated money to the station.

Brown spoke at the Rich Auditorium at the Woodruff Arts Center Saturday, and introduced his family members in the audience: a sister, one daughter who was filming him, another who was there as his manager, a sister, and at least two other children. And, he said, he had two children who live here in Atlanta.

Brown’s messages are similar to other motivational speakers. Basically it is this: Work toward your goal, and put your best foot forward in all that you do to get the most out of life. He said if you have ever lost a job, you were supposed to move ahead in life. It was losing his job as a DJ in Ohio that spurred him on to become a public speaker, which, he said, has earned him $55 million.

He talked about being labeled “educable mentally retarded” and an 11th grade teacher, Mr. Washington, who changed his life when he told him, “Someone else’s opinion of you doesn’t have to become your reality.”

Brown said what we say, hear and see affects us and how we think of ourselves. He said people who dress with their pants pulled down low, and wear oversized T-shirts, earrings and hats pulled over to the side are “a hood-infected virus.” He said you’ve got to affirm your greatness with pictures, and this style of dress is the wrong type of picture you want to be looking at. “Your environment affects your canvas.”

He said rap songs that talk about poverty and demean people are harmful and have a bad effect on young people. He said the adage “garbage in, garbage out” is wrong. He said garbage that goes in you by any of your senses stays there and festers, and that if you “dress like an idiot, you look like an idiot, and people will treat you like an idiot.”

He said people have not been taught how to live, and that his goal is to create a movement of 1,000 people to produce a new generation to train others how to become effective communicators and change their lives. Then, his daughter Ona Brown took the stage for about 15 minutes and talked about how she, as an effective communicator and public speaker, was able to manifest her dream of going to South Africa and meet Nelson Mandela.

Next, his youngest son, John-Leslie, took the stage and said he appreciated all his father taught him. He recounted struggles of his childhood. When he was performing poorly in school, his father took away his phone, computer, and TV privileges and took his bedroom door off the hinges so that he could make certain his son was using his time wisely. With little else to do, John-Leslie turned his life around by reading motivational books and studying.

Brown came back on stage and showed a video, a montage of his performances and pictures of his many speaking awards. He talked about his plans for working with 1,000 people to change their destiny by becoming an effective communicator. He said his son and daughter earn thousands of dollars an hour from public speaking and his rate is $25,000 an hour. To become one of the 1,000 people to change your destiny, all you had to do was buy his videos, and he would come back to Atlanta one day and work with you and your children to create change. He did not say whether he would meet all the participants simultaneously or individually. He said he normally sells this program for $1,100, but for people who care enough to change their lives, today only, he would give it away for $917.

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. August 3, 2009

    While I appreciate motivational speaking, I don’t like this guy. Just because one person succeeds doesn’t mean that anyone or everyone can. Success can come from vision, the will to do hard work, luck, and, sometimes, from compromise (“selling out”). With the success I’ve had as a musician, I keep in mind that I was very lucky, and I know not everyone is. Vision, hard work, luck and compromising may help in making someone successful, but not only is there no guarantee of success, it is often fortuitous. Two people could live their lives and pursue their careers in a similar manner, and one may become successful and the other may not.

    There have been times in my music career in which I have been extremely lucky and gotten great gigs around the world, and other times, even though I have done the same things that I did before, I was not so lucky and could not book concert dates. And yet, I am the same person, with the same intelligence and character.

    Because he was poor at one time, he seems to imply that anyone who can’t get out of poverty is responsible for their failure. He says losing your job means moving on to something greater, and he uses himself as an example. This is not the reality for most people. Thousands of people–and recently many of these people have been quite wealthy people–have lost their jobs due to the recession. Some of them have been unemployed for more than a year and some are now delivering pizzas because they have lost jobs in the financial, auto and other industries where they once earned six-figure salaries. It is tough for them, but far tougher for people who never earned much money.

    Also, I don’t agree with his comments about the way people dress. The low-riding pants and oversized T-shirt style has become something of a uniform. It is the hip hop style, whether we like it or not. Does he really think that suits and ties are better? I think suits and ties are horrible. A tie is a slip knot, a miniature hangman’s noose. What does this really signify? The starched collar, the “fitted” suit–all repressive garb. Both styles are somewhat of a uniform. Perhaps in the hip hop world, their way of dressing contributes to their success. Not all hip hop is derogatory. Some of it is inspirational.

  2. EvitaG permalink
    October 20, 2010

    I love Les Brown. He is a very positive, upbeat person that lives to inspire and motivate others into their greatness. I had the opportunity to meet him a few years ago and he is simply a very genuine and down to earth guy. I’m in agreement with him about how someone chooses to dress, impresses an image of what people think about you, thus, how they may treat you.

    We have to understand that in this business we talk to different audiences. The different audiences that we encounter, we have to meet them where they are and speak to them in the language (style) that they speak. As an Inspirational Dramatist, I understand this as I speak to young people (teenagers and young adults) about “hoodism.” But I also connect, relate and speak to the educated as well. We have to become all things to all people when it comes to communing, connecting and relating with people.

    When he mentioned “rap songs” and their effect on people, he didn’t say all rap, he said some rap and he is absolutely correct. Some rap has a negative effect on our younger generation. Some rap (very little) is positive.

    I appreciate his message. I’m sorry I missed his visit to Atlanta.

Leave a Reply

Note: You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS