Smiley kicks off leadership conference

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2017

Comedian Rickey Smiley kicked off the 16th Annual Leadership Conference Friday night on the campus of Troy University.

Comedian Rickey Smiley kicked off the 16th Annual Leadership Conference Friday night on the campus of Troy University.

The 16th Annual Leadership Conference opened Friday night at Sartain Hall on the campus of Troy University in celebration of Black History Month.

Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. welcomed the conference attendees and challenged them to leave the conference with renewed determination to make a difference in their communities.

Hawkins recognized the veterans in attendance and expressed appreciation for their service and sacrifices. He paid homage to the African Americans who have answered the country’s call from, the American Revolution to Afghanistan.

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“All blood flows red,” Hawkins said. “There is no distinction among those who serve.”

As a prelude the opening address by Rickey Smiley, radio personality, television host, actor, stand-up comedian, Hawkins reminded the attendees “laughter is the best medicine.”

If laughter is a good medicine, the audience got a big dose and also a big dose of humility.

Smiley spoke almost directly to the university students but his message was not just for them.

“I don’t have a speech,” Smiley said. “I’ll be all over the place but I hope you’ll get something from what I have to say.”

Smiley grew up in the Kingston Projects in Birmingham, “Section 8.” He was the product of a single parent home. The projects were ripe with drugs, gangs and violence.
“There were a lot of temptations out there,” he said. “I had decisions to make – whether to join a gang, to do drugs, drink, smoke. To do what others were doing. But I stayed on the porch.”

“When you are 18 years old, you can make decisions that will affect the rest of your life,” he said. “When I got on a bus in Birmingham to go to college in Tuskegee, my uncle told me, ‘Don’t leave with nothing and come back with nothing.’

“Out of the bus window, I saw my grandmother crying. I knew I wasn’t coming back with nothing. I was going to make her proud.

“And, somebody made sacrifices so you could have what you have. But nobody has to do anything for you. You can do for yourself. Be prepared. Know how to meet people. Know how to hold a knife and fork; know about etiquette. When others fly low, you fly high.”

Smiley said he demands that his children fly high.

“When we had dinner with President Obama, my daughter was confortable because she knew how to hold a knife and fork,” he said. “Preparation meets opportunity.”

Smiley challenged his audience to take advantage of every opportunity and to be extraordinary.

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is extra,” he said. “When you are serious about what you do, nobody has to tell you want to do. Go to work 30 minutes early and stay late. Sometimes you have to suck it up and go to work when you don’t feel like it. You’ll be tested. Suck it up. Work through adversity. Don’t get an attitude. Take your job and life seriously. Somebody made sacrifices so you can be where you are and have what you have. Always remember that.”

The Leadership Conference will continue today at the Trojan Center. Bishop James L. Davis will be the keynote speaker at the closing luncheon.