Q: Thanks for connecting with us again, Andre. I know those who attended SITE Global Conference will be interested to know: fill us in on how the rest of your time in NYC went, post-keynote. Can you share how your conversations, meetings, and mentorship opportunities went after you spoke with our attendees?
A: After I left the conference as promised, I went to two Department of Corrections state prisons. One was called Green Haven, and the other one is called Greene. They house adult men serving anywhere from two years to life.
We did four presentations over the course of two days, including one in the visiting room and one in a gymnasium where they brought men from a college program; men from gangs, men who were just doing time trying to find their way.
We gave them a positive message about things that they could do and things that could be — and that people out there cared about them, that there was an association [SITE] who sponsored me being there, and that I just spoke in front of 760 professionals from around the world. And I was just like the men sitting in front of me, starting in prison. I gave the message that transforming is possible.
So it was phenomenal. The facilities loved it, and they've invited me to come back and do a presentation to a statewide committee, where I will speak to every program director from every facility in the state of New York Department of Corrections and hopefully give them some insights on how to better improve their systems and help make a safer environment.
This came about because I had the opportunity through SITE to volunteer for two days. So we impacted two facilities with about 1,000 men, and now we're about to impact the entire system — or about 35,000 men.
Q: The stories and experiences you shared were an incredibly powerful start to our final conference day. What advice would you give to others who might want to share their stories in a similar way, or who want to use their experiences and backgrounds to make a difference in the world?
A: To anybody who wants to share their story, I am so happy and honored to know that hopefully I inspired them to do so, or they just finally found the time to do it.
My advice is that there are countless coaching programs that are available. There are countless free videos on YouTube, that are available. There are countless books about speaking that are available. In the age of the Internet, there is no shortage of resources available. You just have to be intentional and focused on you and your plan.
Q: You also challenged our audience to think about their "three words" they want to mark or encapsulate their lives when the time comes.
If someone's a bit stuck about what they might pick for their own words, what should they do to get thoughts flowing or to start thinking about the positive impact they can have on others?
A: The objective is to get them to think about where they're going to end up; I look at my dad and where he is, and he's not happy with his time on Planet Earth. I look at my mom, she's not 100% happy. So it's really a thought-provoking exercise.
The three things are nice if you can actually think of them. But so is just thinking about intentionality, and where you are and what you want to be. Then once they get to those three things, then the next step is how do I live intentionally to actually live up to these things, and what does that mean? And how does that work?
Q: Where else in the world would you like to go? What cities or countries would you like to share your message in next?
A: Italy, any place in the Far East (Thailand, China, Japan, Philippines) are definitely on the list. I haven't been to Argentina yet. Africa — South Africa, West Africa, East Africa, and definitely Central Africa. Those countries are definitely on the list. I have not been to any of those.
There's no place on Planet Earth that I do not want to go. Some places, I don't want to go into wintertime, but there's no place on Planet Earth I do not want to go!
But if you said “Andre, what country could you go to right now?” I would say South Africa would be number one — and I would say China, Thailand, Philippines would be number two.
As a little boy, I used to ride the bus in the train every day. That was my escape from my neighborhood. I'd ride the buses and trains and just believe that I was in different places when I was in prison. I would daydream about flying around the world.
Put me down for any location, I'm game!
Q: Anything else you'd like to share with our SITE community?
A: I am appreciative of the opportunity. I really had a great time. I enjoyed myself and I got to meet a lot of cool people.
But there are a lot of people I didn't get a chance to meet, just because of timing and logistics. And sometimes people aren't the type to walk up to folks — but if they wanted to speak to me, we can definitely work that out.
If anybody's having problems with a family member, they can reach out. I've already spoken to three or four people and talked to their kids. I actually have a call today with a young man whose father attend the conference, I just want to follow up on that and keep my word. If they need help, I want to help them.
And there's not a lot to that. So often, we trap ourselves in the “they don't really mean me,” or “he wouldn't come here or my kids” … negative belief patterns that they can't be helped or that they shouldn't be helped. And that's wrong, and I don't stand for that.
So if I can be helpful, I'd love just to reiterate my offer. We're changing lives, and that's what this whole thing is about.