Last month, right in the thick of my injury still less than 2 months old, surgery pains shooting through my body, in a hinge brace, I had the challenge of an injured speaker’s lifetime:
7 Speeches in 2 Days on 1 Leg
We traveled to Panaca, NV, considered proudly by locals to be “the middle of nowhere” and they aren’t joking.
Tumbleweeds don’t even stop there, they just keep on rolling in search of something else.
This quick trip was a batch of schools covering nearly 100 miles, parent nights, and one most unique event I didn’t expect would be one of my favorites of all-time:
Speaking to youth in a detention center in an attempt to inspire them.
We arrived early, along a dusty desert road, and were rushed in through the back door, as the boys and girls had been seated for a while longer than anticipated, and usually aren’t in the same room together, so all of the adults were experiencing high anxiety.
Stumbling in, wearing my “Straight Outta Knee Surgery” T-shirt, donning shorts that revealed my new scar, in a hinge brace that limited all movement, I was quickly introduced to a room of 40 young people with histories of really, extremely unfortunate behavior and crimes.
What the heck do you say to kids like this?
Do you see them as the same as other kids?
Do you tell them what they’ve done in life is awful and need to repent?
All I knew to do was what I am best at:
I related to them through laughter and making fun of myself.
My Signature Moves.
Here’s a video of some of what I did –
They were stunned by what I could do with my faces, voices, and wackiness; the stories I told, as they were laughing with screams and hollers, hi-fives and head slaps.
It even felt a bit like heckling, as they demanded I do more, and that’s when I turned the tables on them, saying, “Well, I’ve shown you my Signature Moves, this is how I make a living!
These are my gifts and talents.
I hope it gives you courage to share your superpowers, because maybe you’ve used yours for things that landed you here, but those could also be the superpowers that help you change the world as only you can!”
Next thing I knew, they were performing for each other.
Comedy, rap, singing, doing covers and then originals, reciting their own poetry…it was empowering, amazing, and mostly humbling.
A young man came to the front of the room. He broke into an original song that was as good, raw, real and wonderful as anything you could hear on the radio. Everyone was silent as he began, chills crept over all of us, and then the cheering ensued.
A standing ovation from his peers.
Smiles, accomplishment, a concert he’d never gotten to perform before.
As he went to his seat I just stood there…
I started to cry.
In front of them.
They were surprised I was crying, as was I.
But it touched my soul to think they were willing to share their goodness, their best selves, with each other, and encourage one another in their gifts, strengths, and talents.
Just as my knee injury changed my life, I was restricted to a new inconvenience in my predicament, and I likened it to their situation: how easy it is to not learn anything from confinement, to resent it or grow bitter.
Or we can choose how awesome it is to make a Promise to do better after we are free, but we must earn it.
We choose to be bitter or to be better.
We choose to make that Promise for ourselves.
What an amazing experience.
Without breaking the rules and capturing faces or identities, we grabbed this video footage of the experience, and it was special.
The laughs were explosive.
I was ON.
No powerpoint, no microphone, no stage, no fancy lighting.
Just standing in front of young felons, whom I only see the best in for them moving forward, and I believe they saw that’s what I see in them.
It was a Promise speech for the ages, because I only did a part of it, while they gave most of the presentation, and I’ve never been a part of anything like quite like it.
What would you have said to a room full of youth in a detention center?
~ Jason Hewlett
Husband, Father, Writer, Mentor, Hiker
- Speaker Hall of Fame * Award-Winning Entertainer * Promise Legacy Project Coach
- World’s Only Keynote Speaker utilizing entertainment, musical impressions, and comedy to Create Legendary Leadership through the Power of Commitment
- Author of “The Promise To The One”