I was honored to accept an invitation to be the keynote speaker at the annual Sanneh Foundation gala fundraiser in Minneapolis, MN, this weekend. I was particularly thrilled to learn that the event raised more than three times what they normally do, and if I had anything to do with that then it was well worth me giving of my time.
Tony Sanneh is a soccer legend and now a humanitarian leader also. He has dedicated his post-playing career to the uplift and empowerment of youth through soccer, and his foundation is showing some impressive results.
My message to the assembled group of more than 1,000 supporters was "All In." I shared the experiences of my personal life, from children onward, where people (family, friends and partners alike) have made absolute commitment to my social, emotional, spiritual, economic and philosophical development. How there is something magical that happens when people decide they are "all in," versus some level of general support for you. Even the Bible says, "be hot or be cold, but if you are lukewarm I will spat you out." Translation: even God doesn't like mediocrity. No one does, really. We just have gotten use to settling for it. We settle.
I shared the story of Mrs. Coretta Scott King, who was "all in" supporting her husband Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even when he found himself behind bars in the civil rights movement, she took care of their family, kept essential communication with leaders going, and even performed countless fundraisers to raise money and support for the movement. Most people don't know that Mrs. King was an accomplished classical singer, but she decided to use her gifts and talents to be "all in" for her husband and his movement.
Or the story of my own mother, Ms. Juanita Smith, who went to work as a janitor at my elementary school so that she could spend more time with me, and even opened a nursery for children when I was young. I was the first customer, and I think she might have even sent me a bill (smile). My mother told me she loved me everyday of my life, and I believed it. I still do. Having a healthy self esteem and self image is probably one of the most precious gifts that a parent can bestow onto a child.
I asked the audience of more than 1,000 assembled Minneapolis leaders whether they "wanted a personal legacy," and of course, each and every one said that they did. I then positively challenged each of them to do something about that desire. To live for something larger and more important than themselves, as no one will care when they are dead and gone how many fancy cars they had, or how large their homes was, or how amazing their wardrobe. No one will care about any of that, unless they are the one you left all this too. People will only remember what you did for others.
I genuinely believed that when we get to the pearly gates, God will ask us two questions. "What did you do to sustain this small planet," and "what did you do for the least of these, My children?" I want to be able to answer at least one of these questions. I believe that many present last night for Tony Sanneh, will choose to positive answer the call to change the world of the children in that city, by making a commitment to the Sanneh Foundation. Many of them did just that by the time the program ended last night. They made that commitment, "to live for something larger and more important that oneself."
The unique thing about living a life that gives, is that the giver benefits as much or more, as the one they are benefiting. Whatever goes around, comes around. We are all in this thing, together.
I salute Tony Sanneh and the Sanneh Foundation, and look forward to all he, his young and energized board, and his growing list of dedicated supporters will do to make our world better. I am standing right there with him, every step of the way.
Okay, let's go.