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From Speech Impediment to World Class Speaker

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It’s a Thursday afternoon, it’s summer, and the year is 2018. I’m in my car leaving my home in Stone Mountain, Georgia headed to the Atlanta Airport. If you drive a car anywhere in the USA, you know Atlanta Georgia has some of the worst traffic in the world, and today would be no different. As I’m driving down I-20, I run into a huge traffic jam with cars beeping their horns people yelling out of windows like crazy folks. I finally arrive at the airport to catch my flight to Las Vegas, Nevada. The company that flew me out to speak purchased me a first class ticket. I must say it’s a different world when you are flying up front. They feed you dinner that comes on golden plates, and if that’s not enough, you can have all the drinks and snakes you want. I finally arrive to Las Vegas that night, and as the plane is nearing the runway I see lights beaming everywhere and tall hotel building that look like giants rainbows. I arrive at the MGM Grand Hotel where I’m staying and speaking the next day. When I get out of my car a hotel bellman takes my bags and opens the front doors of the MGM Hotel. What a sight! On the outside to the hotel building were these great big statues of Gold Lions staring at you. The inside of the hotel was nothing I had ever seen before in my life. It was huge inside with a lot of slot machines, tall water fountains, restaurants, marble floors and bathrooms so clean you could eat off the floor. I arrived to my room, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. I was in a sweet all by myself, with a huge TV and bed that could sleep 10 people. The next morning I get a knock on my door and it’s the people who flew me out letting me know it’s time to go and do my keynote speech. I’m taking to a green room in the hotel to sit until it’s my time to go and do what I do best. Someone finally comes to the door and it’s a tall gentleman coming to tell me it’s time to go on stage to speak. He waits by the door holding it open while I get my notes and the bottle water that was given to me when I arrived. I walked out the door and down this long tunnel that lead into the MGM Grand hotel where they have the HBO fights, and where I will be speaking. As I’m walking I can hear loud noises coming from people screaming and cheering and wondering to myself, how many people are out there.  I can remember asking the tall gentleman with a great big smile on my face, how many people you think are out there waiting for me to speak. He said with a great big smile also, about 18,000 people or so. It would be hard for me to explain the feelings and emotions that I felt at that moment, but what I can say, it was the best feeling ever. It was at that moment that I heard a small still voice come out from nowhere that sounded much like my mother voice. My mother had already passed by this time and had gone off to be with the lord. I heard the same words my mother said to me when I was 8 years old. She said Joseph, One day you will speak, but not only will you speak, you will speak in front of thousands and thousands of people and the world is going to know who you are. I finally make my way out to the crowd, and people are still screaming and cheering from the top of their lungs. As I’m walking to the platform to have a seat, I heard somebody say to the person standing next to them, That’s Him, That’s the guy I’ve been telling you about.

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I want you to go back with me to where it all started. It’s April, 24th and the year is 1963. My mother, an 18 year old college student from Washington DC, where she was born and raised is giving birth to me at General Hospital. Because I had complications with my health at birth, I was told I stayed in the hospital for the first six months of my life. From the first time I started talking my mother knew something was different about me. You see from the time I could talk it was clear I had some kind of speech impediment. I guess it was around the age of 5 or 6 that my mother realized that I stuttered badly. My early life started in Washington DC, and although I had a great home life, it was tough growing up there being the kid who stuttered and was known as the Woo Woo boy. They called me the Woo Woo boy because when I talked, it seemed that only air came out of my mouth and not words. As I said, I had a great home life in Washington DC. I had the privilege each and every morning of getting out of bed to my grandmother cooking another one of her famous breakfast. You could smell her cooking all the way down the street. You could smell the salt and grease just running through your nose when my grandmother cooked bacon. Her eggs were hot and runny just the way I liked them. But the best part of the breakfast was her famous pancakes. They were hot and real crispy around the edges. She made her syrup from scratch and topped it with hot butter.

I lived in a house with eleven other people that included of course my grandmother, my mother, brother, uncle, five cousins, and two aunts. My neighborhood was fun, safe and very loud. We didn’t have swimming pools in our neighborhood so the older kids would turn the water on from the fire hydrant for us to play. It was common to see police driving down our street with their red and blue lights flashing as if the sun had just fallen out of the sky. The only thing that I really miss in life is my grandmother cooking another one of her famous breakfast. One of the main reasons I loved growing up with such a big family, whenever I got picked on for being the Woo Woo boy I had a lot of back up to come to my rescue. Well, all of that changed. No, I didn’t stop stuttering or being the Woo Woo boy, my mother did something that would change my life forever. It was the Christmas of 1971, I was eight years old and Washington DC was having a big snow storm. Snow was coming down from everywhere, and the cars were buried in snow to the point that all you could see was the tires. People were walking with big heavy coats on, and I could remember seeing buses stranded on the side of the road. Like every Christmas my brother and I would get dress so that we could go over my father’s parent’s home. I didn’t see my father very much when I was young. My parents were teenagers when they had my brother and I and I don’t think they were in love or anything. However, we soon found out that we were not going to my grandparent’s home, but to the airport. Yes, to the airport. I could remember before we left, seeing my grandmother and aunts and cousins crying and saying goodbye. I can’t remember them ever doing that before, but this time it was in full affect. My mother had instructed everyone not to say anything as to where we were going.  So we end up at the airport and off we go to San Diego California. The Washington DC airport was big and very loud, and it smelled like popcorn. We boarded the flight headed to sunny California and I remember my mother looking at me and saying, Joseph it’s going to be ok. I think she saw the sadness in my eyes and wanted to reassure me that everything was going to be fine.  When we land in San Diego, the first song I heard getting off the plane and walking in the airport was Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head, too funny. As we are walking I see a man approaching us and he gives my mother a hug and a kiss. Now I’m thinking in my head, who is this guy kissing my mother. Well, long story short, my mother was dating the man who kissed her while we were living in Washington DC. They ended up getting married and not telling me or my brother. My stepdad was from California, and he went back out there to get things ready for us to come. I will say that my stepdad was a great guy, and he treated me and my brother like we were his own kids. Well now I’m here in California and my mother puts me in my elementary school and that’s when I realized I was away from my home in DC. When I enter the 3rd grade it was on and popping. The kids made fun of me daily because of my speech impediment and I didn’t even want to come to school. My brother was able to make friends pretty fast because he was a very outgoing guy. One of the ways my brother became popular with the kids, they would have him come and get me and have me start trying to talk. I didn’t know any better and my brother loved me, but this was a way for him to win friends at my expense. I could remember one day tying to speak and hearing the kids telling my brother how stupid and dumb I was. That day I went home and told my mother I was not going back to school because the kids said I was stupid and dumb. Well that was the day my life would change. You see my mother said to me with a big loud voice, eyes on fire and her hands trembling, Joseph, have a seat, and have a seat now. It was that day that she said the following words, Joseph, you are neither stupid nor dumb, it’s just that your brain and your mouth have not caught each other and were going to get them to catch each other. The next day my mother came up to my school and had a talk with my teacher, her name was Miss. Oakel. They both came up with a game plan to help me speak better. When I was at school, Miss Oakel would have me read out loud so I could hear myself. When I was at home, my mother who showed me no mercy came up with her own plan of attack. My Mother was an English major in college and she loved to read, write and talk.  The first thing my mother did, she had me to read the dictionary from A to Z. Then her plan was to get me to talk out loud and repeat what I heard others say while I was watching T.V. or a movie. My mother and I did this every day for the next 6 to 7 years. Let me give you an example of what it was like in these sessions with my dear and beloved mother. She would stand over me to make sure I was pronouncing everything perfect from what I heard from the people on the television.  I would become so frustrated because I could hear myself struggling to just get simple words out of my mouth. I would start crying and sobbing and my jaws would start aching from all the pressure I put on them trying to speak. My mother would say things to me like, Joseph, practice does not make perfect, but it does make better. The one thing she said to me that I too said to my kids growing up was, if you are willing to participate in your own rescue and not play the victim, I will help you all the way. All this hard work paid off because now I’m 15 years old and my speech has changed and I’m starting to speak without stuttering. When I enter my senior year in high school my debate teacher found a way to get me on San Diego State University debate team, where I traveled the state of California debating against other college students. After I left school and went into my adult life I kept speaking anywhere and everywhere I could. God called me into the ministry and I started preaching and teaching the word of God. I went on to earned my toastmaster degree and started speaking to fortune 500 companies, schools, network marketing companies, churches, and Israel in 2015 at Caiaphas house and many more. Now I stand here in the MGM Grand Hotel getting ready to go on stage and speak to 18,000 people, words cannot express the feeling of living in your now.

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