Below is text of my speech that I gave as the keynote for this event. You can also download the PDF of my speech and share. Enjoy, like, share and leave comments!
First, I want to thank Ms. Leverette and the Atlanta Council for giving me this opportunity to speak at this Meeting. It is always a pleasure to speak to business women as a business woman myself but ESPECIALLY important when there is a diverse group of women who want to learn how to grow personally and professionally from each other. Today is not only about me imparting wisdom and life lessons on you—but learning from you as well so I look forward to chatting with some of you after this event.
Also thank you to Dr. Sykes for her support and joining me today. Give her a round of applause. She is a part of my consulting firm’s “Givers Circle”, which is a group of diversity advocates that meet monthly to discuss a number of diversity issues and discuss solutions to race and gender problems.
This is my 1st of about 5 speaking engagements I have over the next month including 2 award ceremonies. Even though I am asked to speak numerous times a year, the pace and importance of my speaking engagements are starting to pick up so I have been wondering how to introduce myself in a memorable way. And I think I have come to the conclusion that I need Beyonce’s back up dancers to follow me around and play her song “Who Run the World” every time I take the stage. But, I cannot afford Beyonce’s back up dancers so if anyone wants to volunteer for these roles let me know. But it is true that we all know who run the world and that’s who ladies? (Repeat) It has been proven repeatedly that when women are at the table—things get done faster and better, both in business and in politics.
So if you cannot by one of my back up dancers, I have another task for you that I hope you can help me out with: I need you to snap pictures and tag me on social media. My tags are just DarshunKendrick (page on FB, Twitter @TheDiversityAct, Instagram and LinkedIn). Can you do that for me?
Now the flier for this event is a little ambitious—I am supposed to “introduce you to a proven system for success and tips to be a part of political decision making.” Well I can tell you right now how to answer the first part of that: My proven system for success IS, and write this down ladies, ….FAILURE WITH GRACE.
Proven System for Success: Failure With Grace
Now I know you are saying Dar’shun that’s not quite what we wanted to hear. We wanted to hear something uplifting and inspirational on this Saturday afternoon. Well, I am a pragmatist and I am here to tell you: failure and defeat with the utmost grace got me to where I am today. It’s often said that in life we either learn or succeed, but never truly fail so long as we are trying. That may be true, but it’s through failure that I learned to use grace to turn to what makes me happy: service to others. Let me explain.
My Childhood in the Dec
I was born at Grady Hospital and raised in Decatur GA. Not the nice part of Decatur—-the drug deal making part of Decatur, off Glenwood Road. My parents are blue collar, lower middle class folks. Neither one of them had a college degree until my mom got hers at the age of 53 a few years ago. None of my 4 grandparents have a high school diploma—let me repeat NONE of my grandparents had a high school diploma. But God got the last laugh because now I have 4 degrees, one in honor of each one of my grandparents.
The High School Blues
But the road to 4 degrees was rough. I went to Towers High School where the graduation rate at the time was 30% and I had a 25% chance of being pregnant by age 16. High school was also the time of one my first big fails in life, as I saw it. I am an introvert. No one believes me but I am very good about being extroverted when I need to. But in high school I was extremely shy, very nerdy and—check this out—-unbothered by others opinion of me, which was rare for a high school student especially a female. And for this, I was bullied physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I felt I had FAILED in high school. I was extremely unpopular.
But at the time, I could have got depressed or complained or isolated myself but what I decided to do was to get involved in student government. I was involved in elementary school but I really gravitated towards it in high school and so I emerced myself in student government activities. I could never get elected—but I always got appointed to plan Spirit Week or to plan the Homecoming Parade and Dance because the leadership knew I got stuff done. And that’s where I fell in love with the ability to serve others in a leadership capacity. Failure with grace.
The College Years As a Stormy Petrel & Bulldog
Fast forward,I am at Oglethorpe University. I work for 2 members of Congress, one on Capitol Hill in DC, work at the State Capitol for 2 years, run a State Senate campaign, work for the Democratic Party of GA and get into EVERY law school I apply for, including a full ride plus cash to one, all before the age of 22——life was good
And then came law school at UGA Law. Another opportunity to fail with grace. I wish I could tell you all that I was made to be a lawyer but it would be untrue. I ran for several positions in leadership—lost them all. I interviewed for law firm jobs—-didn’t get any. I tried to make friends—that didn’t seem to work either. So what did I do? The same thing that I did in high school. I turned to service. So with a new professor at UGA Law, I started the first ever business legal society focused on networking with transactional lawyers, not litigators. That society, ladies, still exists today at UGA Law and still thriving and I am proud to say I was the Founder. Failing… with grace.
The Perfect Storm
What happened 2 years after graduation is the story of a lifetime: In August of 2009, I came back from a cruise for my 26th birthday and none of the partners at my law firm were talking to each other. True story. And I knew that things were bad at the firm but didn’t know it was THIS bad. Long story short, the firm imploded and everyone was released by the end of the year. Bad timing too because I was just enrolling in my M.B.A. program at Kennesaw. It was in the middle of the Great Recession and, as a new lawyer with no job, I felt I had failed myself, my parents, my law school and Sallie Mae because I still had school loans to repay. So ladies—what I am about to tell you next is the ULTIMATE failing with grace story so listen carefully.
To Everything, There is a Season
Many of you can relate that since I had a law firm, I needed clients. In order to get clients, I needed to do business development and I wanted to have a business event in DeKalb where I lived. So I set up a meeting with a legislator I knew, Rep. Howard Mosby, for Wednesday around lunch time to discuss some ideas. Wednesday around lunch time, you hear me? Something came up and he cancelled. I thought “great. another delay.” I really wanted that Wednesday meeting but decided not to get upset but instead fail with grace. So, I pushed for him to immediately reschedule to that following day, Thursday for lunch.
So I get to the Capitol Thursday and we are walking down the Capitol steps to lunch and I will never forget what he turned around and said to me that literally changed my life. He said “What district do you live in?” I said” Rep. Randall Mangum, House District 94″. And he said “You are running for his seat. 2 hours before you got here, he decided to run for Governor and we need someone to run.” True story. Remember ladies, to everything there is a season.
Now, I was hardheaded, as some of us are when blessings are chasing us down. I said “no” several times. I called my friend Ted Terry, who is now the Mayor of Clarkston, to talk me out of it and he did the opposite and paid my qualification fees. My colleague in the House now Rep. Doreen Carter offered to take me down to qualify after I tried to get her to run in my place instead. On the way to qualify, I received a call from a friend of mine who was an intern on Capitol Hill in DC at the same time I was. He just so happened to work for then Commissioner Lee May who represented my district who said to me “I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. But Edmond says great things about you. If you’re ok with him, you’re ok with me. You have my support.” Ladies, failing with grace has served me well.
I went on to qualify 30 minutes before the deadline and at age 27 became the State Representative from then House District 94, beating out 5 other competitors.
So to conclude—-my secret to success is simple but a hard reality: Failure, because it teaches you to be creative and makes you stronger. Remember that pearls are made from friction and diamonds are made from pressure. But take it a step further and concentrate on failing wit
That’s why my consulting firm has several initiatives like:
That’s why my consulting firm has several initiatives like:
- The GA Path Program, which is an initiative to expose more minorities and women to careers in professional lobbying. We are still accepting applications for that program until Oct. 11th. I will talk more about this program later.
- We also have our Corporate Board Training program to train and mentor minorities and women to be on PAID, corporate boards. We are in talks with a large NGO in New York to partner with us to make that happen soon so stay tuned if interested.
- And last, a Wonder Women Confidence Conference that I am planning with some wonderful women for March of 2018…complete with capes…to focus on empowering and teaching women who are in male dominated industries.
So in conclusion, I pray each of you find your failure and then find your grace…. in service on boards, in your community or any other capacity you see fit.
Tips to Be a Part of Political Decision Making
So change of topic a bit. How to be a part of political decision making, another one of my favorite subjects.
This is less anecdotal and more of a teaching experience so take out pen and paper. Here we go….I have 6 “action items” for you to be a part of the political decision making process.
- Vote. This the very BASIC thing that each of us can do, the very LEAST that each one of us can do to participate in the political process. So vote often in every election and vote fully all the way down the ballot. Now you are a group of active women so I am sure that if I looked you up on Votebuilder, you all would be what we call “super voters”, those voters that vote often. Yes, you are more likely to get picked for jury duty but guess what—-that’s being a part of the decision making process as well. Who decides who gets locked up—juries, who are made up from voters. If you don’t like how the judge conducted the proceeding, you can vote them out.
- Lobby (paid or unpaid). As a private, unpaid citizen, you have a right to come down to the Capitol or anywhere in your local or federal government, and tell your elected official what you want as many times as you want. You can email them, call them, write them or, my favorite, tweet them and let your voice be heard. Now…what I want to spend some time to talk about is the PAID opportunities. Many forget that lobbying is an actual profession with the same opportunities and challenges as any other profession. Every major corporation has a lobbyist. Every large non-profit organization has a lobbyist. Every powerful group behind key pieces of legislation has a lobbyist. So while people think that lobbying is some nasty word filled with visions of back off deals and endless food, (1) that’s not true most times and (2) it’s how government works. Lobbyists, or Governmental Affairs professionals as we call them, serve a vital purpose in our policy making infrastructure—one that is necessary. Because let’s face it. Not all of us regular people can spend the time to influence politicians and provide information and so we pay someone, just like any other profession. That’s why I created a program called the GA Path Program. It’s the first of its kind in the state and its an initiative from my firm to encourage and expose more minorities and women to paid lobbying opportunities. My GA Path Program is having its first class in October. Applications are technically close but we have a few spaces open for the 7 month program with a absolute Oct. 17th deadline to apply. We have 37 professional mentors of various backgrounds ready to provide insight into this world and what is means to be a professional lobbyist. If you are interested, take a look at my website and apply if interested.
- Join like minded people. If you don’t want to quit your day job, find a few issues you are passionate about and I am almost 100% sure that there is an organization or a few organizations that support your issue. If you don’t know of an organization, google them or ask someone then get involved. You will be surprised the leadership roles and the activities that will support your particular issue. You can support with your time and talent. I am sure any organization would be thrilled to have you ladies.
- Give money. Now, I know this sounds bad because of what you hear and see in the media and the horror stories you may have heard but think about this. If you have a favorite candidate, whom you trust to do what’s right for you and your family, and they decide to run for office…how are they going to get elected? The dean of the House and a friend of mine, Rep. Calvin Smyre who has served for over 40 years in the State House, he says “It takes coal to run a train but it takes gold to run a campaign.” We may think that money is evil but even the Bible says the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Focus on using money as a tool to accomplish your goal of electing good people. Don’t be afraid of it.
- Volunteer. If you find an organization or a public official that you like, volunteer for events and initiatives and programs. You would be surprised how much you learn just by showing up. I have a gentleman that was a former federal lobbyist who has been helping me on several initiatives. He shows up to special events I can’t attend, sits in on my behalf at meetings and events and through all that, found out about an executive role in government and policy that he is interested in that I am going to recommend him for. Volunteering is a great way to access opportunities. My first volunteer opportunity was working in then Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney’s district office as a 17 year old—which made my resume for other positions take off and here I am today.
- Run for office. I often joke that you have to be a little mentally unstable to run for office—at to some extent that’s true because it’s a rough existence. But if none of the other things I said work for you, running for office is always an option. Now, your timing has to be right—because timing is everything in politics (How we got Trump)—but is a viable option for some special and disturbed people. I put this as the last option because other people will always push women especially to run for office and let’s face it, we do a darn good job at it so I am not surprised. However, it is not for everyone. But if you do feel like running for office is in your future, do it! No hesitation please like I hesitated! You know, men have an amazing ability to get up, tie their shoes and all of a sudden believe they can run for President of the United States. Women can have several degrees, award winning results and we still, like in my case, have to be asked several times to run. Don’t let that be you if you know you want to run. Just do it!
So just to recap……ways to get involved are….(call them out)
Call to Action
You can receive a copy of this speech if you sign up for my enewsletter which goes out every Wednesday at 10 am. I also encourage you to follow me on social media—you will both be inspired and entertained.
So again thank you ladies—for taking the time to hear me today. I hope that you found some inspiration of how to “fail with grace” to move you towards your destiny and also that you will take up the “call to arms” to get involved in YOUR…YOUR political process. And remember—-who runs the world?!
I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC . We curate and execute customized initiatives, programs and events for organizations to meet their specific diversity & inclusion objectives and provide results. Visit us online to request me as a speaker, set up a time to chat about your diversity goals or view upcoming events. Also, learn a little bit more about me.
I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.
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