My Mother My Mentor

My mother gave birth to me twice. The first time, of course, was my arrival into the world. The second happened about 14 years later and it’s the second birth that I remember and will forever be grateful. I was a student in Mrs. Hargrove’s English class when the assignment was given to memorize a speech to give in front of the entire class. I was less than excited. I was a bit of a class clown but enjoyed that role out of the spotlight or from the back of the room. Like many young people, I dreaded speaking and the thought of doing so in front of a group of my peers terrified me. I told my mother I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, she told me I WOULD. She helped me pick out a poem from a book by Eugene Fields called “Jest ‘Fore Christmas”. Mom worked with me for countless hours helping me memorize the poem. She made me practice over and over and over until I could do it in my sleep. I practiced in front of her friends, the church ladies, and the neighbors next door. She also showed me how to use my hands to make appropriate gestures that complimented the words in the poem. She taught me to use eye contact, vocal variety, and effective pauses to land my message. In addition to memorizing the poem, Mom suggested I dress and act the part. The day came when it was my turn. Despite my preparation, I was beyond nervous. Dressed in overalls and a plaid shirt with a straw hat on my head, I walked to the front of the class. My palms were sweaty; my heart raced. I thought I was going to faint. And then I started:

Father calls me William

Sister calls me Will

Mother calls me Willie

But the fellers’ call me Bill

And on it went until I finished with the line “but jest ‘fore Christmas, I’m as good as I can be.” The class clapped and I returned to my seat satisfied that this most dreaded ordeal was over or so I thought. Mom, along with my English teacher, encouraged me to enter the school speech contest. From there I went to the county contest (a recent picture below with my mom and the trophy she helped me win many years ago). In between, there was a lot more practicing, a lot more coaching and a lot more encouraging. Along the way, I became much more comfortable speaking and no longer dreaded it. Of course, there were more presentations in high school and then even more in college. By then, speaking became so much easier and something I even kind of enjoyed. By my early 20’s, I was speaking to civic organizations, church groups, and even business groups. By then, I loved speaking. In my mid 20’s, I left my full-time job and started my career as a professional speaker.

My mom not only gave me life, she also changed my life. I feel confident that if it weren’t for my mother, I would have never overcome one of my biggest fears and certainly would have never found professional speaking as a calling and a career.

In celebration and remembrance of my mother and all the mothers who push their children to be their best, thank you for your influence, thank you for your teaching, and most importantly, thank you for your love. I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven.




In memory of Lois Bunton Richardson January 26, 1932 – May 4, 2017

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