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“We All Have More Than We Need.”

Oral Lee Brown, has sent hundreds of poor kids to college over the years.  Here are five life-lessons she shares.

Oral Lee Brown kept her promise to the children of Oakland

Oral Lee Brown kept her promise to the children of Oakland


Oral Lee Brown knows exactly what it means to pay it forward. Having grown up in the Mississippi Delta, in a family of 14, she understood early the importance of education as a gateway to opportunity. In 1987, a chance encounter with a little girl who was seeking 25 cents to buy food prompted Brown to march into a first grade classroom in a poor Oakland, California, neighborhood  and promise the entire class that she would finance their college educations if they graduated from high school. Twenty-six years later, hundreds of young people have gone to college thanks to her Oral Lee Brown Foundation

1. When in doubt…
"The first 12 years [of the Foundation] were very difficult. There was no one that believed in me or the children but I never gave up because I know a God that can do everything but fail."

2. The recipe for success
"Work in the field that you are passionate about and don’t let anyone or anything stop you until you reach your goal."

3. What I’ve learned from working with the kids
"It taught me that anything is possible. It has also taught me that we all have more than we need and that we need to learn how to share with one another."

4. My mother’s salt pork
"I remember when we had only one piece of salt pork meat to use as seasoning to cook some greens for dinner for a family of 14. When one of the neighbors wanted some salt pork to cook some beans my mother would take the pot off the stove, take the salt pork out, cut it in half and gave it to the neighbor so she could season her beans. I am still trying to be as great as she was;  she truly gave her all."

5. My heroes
"The things that make me optimistic when I look around the world are people like Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia; Duchess Catherine, whose first-born will be queen of England one day if she is a girl; and Malala Yousafzai, the young girl in Pakistan who was shot in the head because she was seeking an education. I pray that she continues her struggle. She is fighting today for what we all fought for in the '60s."

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