He Used to Sleep Foot-to-Face in Motels, Now He Speaks to Youth.

One of my greatest joys has been creating an opportunity to speak for someone who grew up in circumstances similar to my own. Matt Bennett grew up in Compton, where he witnessed his father get shot several times, he was homeless, lived for years in motels where he slept foot-to-face with his siblings, and ate lunch meat out of little red coolers.  Because of these and other rough realities, Matt was failing miserably in school. However, with a dream to create a better life for himself, he attended both day AND night school, and took buses for years to get to and from school. Because of his hard work, he went from earning a 1.28 to a 3.6 G.P.A. and became the first man in his family to graduate from college (Cal State Poly). While in college, he traveled around California, speaking in over 300 schools and prisons to help young people.

After graduation, Matt worked for teh Los Angeles Department Social Services, and, on weekends, he volunteered in prisons, teaching prisoners about decision making, business, and life.  He also mentored several young men from the hood. While giving his life to help others, one of Matt's younger brothers was murdered. Before his brother died, he told Matt, "Matt, you're going to make it. Keep going."

I met Matt right around that time, and felt that I was somehow supposed to help him.  I didn't know how, but I have learned to be obedient to those promptings.  So I watched him for a few years to see what kind of person he was: to see if he REALLY had integrity, character, the commitment and competence to speak to kids.

When I started getting more invitations to speak than I could handle, I put out a call for speakers, and hundreds of people responded, including Matt.  After a VERY long process of vetting and interviewing a LOT of AMAZING people, flying 7 of them to 

Atlanta to speak to me and my most trusted advisors, Matt was the only one who received their unanimous support. They believed that he would be the ideal person to join me in this work of helping students. 

So, after almost 2 years of working with Matt, I am proud to say that he has grown in SO MANY ways as a man and a speaker. Seeing his calendar fill up with bookings to speak brings me great joy. Matt knows how to talk to and help youth who are traumatized, underperforming, or struggling in school or life.  If you are looking for a youth speaker, I highly recommend you check him out. http://bit.ly/2ia6qzh

A Teacher Complained, “I Don’t Know Why We Need This.”

Recently, there have been several "racially charged controversies" in a school district, and some district leaders believed that their teachers needed to become more interculturally competent. So they hired me to lead the training. Early in my session, a teacher complained, "I don't know why we need this." Her district is 75% white and made up of middle-class and affluent families. Hearing her dismiss her need for this kind of training only confirmed for me (and others in the room) that attitudes like hers might be causing- or at least exacerbating- the racial tensions in her school district.

A lot of teachers think that they can continue doing things the way they have always done them, and still be effective.  What they fail to (don't want to?) realize is that our country is becoming more diverse culturally, religiously, socioeconomically, etc, and if teachers who live in historically homogenous districts (which are experiencing a significant influx of diverse families) do not equip themselves to understand and navigate these changes with wisdom, they will eventually become more and more distant from their students, and will become increasingly ineffective as teachers. Their unwillingness to learn will eventually lead to more misunderstanding, conflict and, eventually, chaos in the classroom. So throughout our half-day session, I helped her and her colleagues see how culturally conditioned and linguistically particular they really are; and, as a result of such conditioning, they are neither "normal" nor "the norm" by which every other student should be evaluated. Of course, I also showed them how to build cross-cultural bridges into the lives of their students.

At the end of my time with them, several veteran educators and counselors came up to me and said that mine was the absolute best professional development day they have ever had in their professional lives. I think the woman who complained quietly snuck out the back door. Either way, her attitude only reaffirmed my commitment to helping teachers become better students of their students.

I show busy teachers how to do that in my newest book, Even on Your Worst Day You Can Be a Student's Best Hope.  You can get it directly from ASCD, the number one publisher for education leaders and curriculum development in the world.  

The Power of One Speaking Tour 2017

Here I go! Please pray for me. I'm heading back out for a 41-presentation, 31-city, 21-state, The Power of One Tour.  You can learn more about it HERE.


Flying 7 Continents Solo

I just finished reading Flying 7 Continents Solo, by Harry R. Anderson. He is only the fifth pilot to fly solo in a single-engine aircraft to all seven continents.  Because it’s my dream to fly my family around the world, I read the book to get some perspective and insight from someone who has flown himself around the world in small airplane.

This was the first part of his route (The second (and third) part of his journey included flights from Washington State to Antarctica and back. But because I don’t plan on flying to Antarctica any time soon, I have excluded that part of his journey from this post):

(Harry R. Anderson’s Itinerary)

For the above trip, Harry flew his small airplane, a Lancair Columbia (averages 165 knots), nearly 25,000 miles in 164 days (although he hung out in the U.K. for 81 days to hang out with old friends). In all, he said such a trip would require about $50,000 and 3 months to complete.

Harry has a PhD in engineering and is an entrepreneur. So I appreciated his perspective on many levels.  His scientific orientation undoubtedly helped him to describe his journey with great detail. The book contains an appendix with several spreadsheets, aviation terms, and enumerated procedures on how to get permission to fly into, out of, or over particular countries.

English is the standard language for aviation communication around the world. So Harry didn't have too many troubles communicating with air traffic controllers.  There were a few instances in India and South America where local controllers spoke little to no English, but he was able to understand just enough to complete his flights. 

Also, while Harry seemed to have a great time flying himself around the world, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was lonely during the trip. He is not married and I don’t think he mentioned having any children.  For my trip, I don’t want to do it alone. I want to take my family with me.  As a family, we have already visited 48 states, backpacked through Western Europe, Visited Japan, China, and Australia. Because that is our rhythm, I couldn’t see myself trying to take a trip around the world without my family.

One other thing about Harry’s trip that is different from the one I am dreaming about is that he pretty much avoids the whole continent of Africa. Being of African descent, I cannot see myself flying us around the world without visiting several countries in Africa. I know it will add significantly to length and cost of our journey, but for us, Africa is an inescapable must for our itinerary. 

To make such a trip, we would definitely need a bigger, faster, stronger airplane.  Right now, we can fly about 750 miles per tank, but I would want to be able to fly at least 1000 nautical miles per tank. I would also need a plane that can carry more weight. Right now, fully fueled, we can carry a little over 900 pounds (people and luggage).  For our flight, however, I would like a plane that can hold more than 1,000 pounds. Ideally, it will have a payload of more than 1,300 pounds.  Given those requirements, I would probably need to invest in a Beechcraft Queen Air with an Excalibur Conversion.  Another consideration involves the speed and service ceiling of the plane.  During his trip, Harry encountered some icing on his wings, often at about 11,000 feet. Without de-icing equipment, he couldn’t fly in or above the icing layers, so he had to descend and fly at low altitudes (which, at times, made me uncomfortable).  So, a pressurized aircraft that can do what the Queen Air can do, but also has the ability to fly into known icing (FIKI) at higher altitudes would be ideal for our trip around the world. Right now, the Cessna 414A is the plane that keeps standing out to me. 

In any case, I appreciated the journey that Harry Anderson shares. I’m sure I’ll return to his book again and again when it comes time to start requesting visas and permissions to enter and exit countries.