Les Brown Wants More
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.