Public speaking was never something I was ever lacking confidence in, much less with a bunch of unsophisticated prisoners, so I was eager to give it a try.
But first, Birmingham brought back two guys who had just completed his last ten-week course to offer testimonials on the program.These two speakers had an impact on the class, and me in particular, as if I were even questioning the effectiveness of this program in the first place. But nonetheless, it was still a plus to hear from a couple of fellow inmates on what the course did for each of them.
Birmingham proceeded to provide two examples of people who, as adults, turned their lives around and became very successful in their later years.
The first one, according to Jerry, as he allowed all of us to start calling him, was an unattractive, single parent in her forties who was saddled with three young children, and not much of a prospect to become anything more than a housebound woman and mother.
Then, she allegedly read a book, which Jerry based this entire program on, and that instructed her to find the one thing that she was good at in life, which Jerry emphasized throughout this initial meeting, we all, as human beings, possess, and was then told to try this talent out.
This woman, who claimed to be very good at making people laugh, and who revealed that she had always been the class clown while growing up in school, then tried her gift of gab at several small nightclubs, which eventually led to a stint on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1973.
“That woman,” said Jerry, “turned out to be the successful comedienne that we all know today as Phyllis Diller.”
This was a very inspirational story that had many of us “oohing and aahing,” but it was just the beginning.
The next example of a late bloomer in life, according to Jerry, was a man who, in his sixties, had spent over fifty years as a failed inventor, until, one day, he hit it big, and the jackpot at the same time.
Starting out with one small eating establishment, this man created the special recipe which enabled him to branch out with franchises all across America that served the now-world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken.
“Colonel Sanders,” Jerry said, “was a multimillionaire until his untimely death several years back when he was in his eighties. So you see, it is never too late in life to start reaching for the stars.”
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