From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

Consider This

My mother taught me very early to believe I could achieve any accomplishment I wanted to. The first was to walk without braces.

Wilma Rudolph

• Basketball superstar Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

• Rafer Johnson, the decathlon champion, was born with a clubfoot.

• Early in her career, Whoopi Goldberg worked in a funeral parlor and as a bricklayer while taking small parts on Broadway.

• Sidney Poitier was told at his first acting audition that he should stick with dishwashing.

• Beyoncé Knowles says she was the really shy, quiet kid in school.

• Eddie Murphy was once paid one dollar per minute as a stand-up comedian.

• Wesley Snipes installed telephones before getting his first movie role.

• It was not until he reached his fifties that Morgan Freeman become a movie star.

• Alex Haley received a rejection letter once a week for four years as a budding writer. Later in his career, he was ready to give up on the book Roots. After nine years on the project, he felt inadequate to the task and was ready to throw himself off a freighter in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As he was standing at the back of the freighter, looking at the wake, he heard the voices of his ancestors saying, “You go do what you got to do because they are all up there watching. Don’t give up. You can do it. We’re counting on you!” In subsequent weeks, the final draft of Roots poured out of him.

• Wilma Rudolph was the twentieth of twenty-two children. She was born prematurely and wasn’t expected to survive. When she was four years old, Wilma contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her with a paralyzed left leg. At age nine, she removed the metal leg brace and began to walk without it. By thirteen, she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors claimed as a miracle. That same year, she decided to become a runner. She entered a race and came in last. For the next few years, every race she entered, she came in last. Everyone told her to quit, but Wilma kept on running. One day, she actually won. From then on she won every race she entered. Eventually this little girl, who was told she would never walk again, went on to win three Olympic gold medals.

• In 1962, four young women started a professional singing career. They began performing in their church and doing small concerts. Then they cut a record. It was a flop. Later, another record was recorded. The sales were a fiasco. The third, fourth, fifth and on through their ninth recordings were all failures. Early in 1964, they were booked for Dick Clark’s show, American Bandstand. He barely paid enough to meet expenses, and no great contracts resulted from their national exposure. Later that summer, they recorded “Where Did Our Love Go?” This song raced to the top of the charts, and Diana Ross and the Supremes gained national recognition and prominence as a musical sensation.

• Scottie Pippen, who won four NBA championship rings and two Olympic gold medals, received no athletic scholarship from any university and originally made his small college basketball team only as the equipment manager.

• Renowned photographer Howard Bingham flunked his college photography class and was fired from his first job as staff photographer at a Los Angeles newspaper. He went on to become one of the top photographers in the world, working with such notables as Bill Cosby and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and circling the globe with Muhammad Ali.

• One of the most beautiful speaking voices on stage and screen belongs to James Earl Jones. Did you know that Jones has long battled a severe stuttering problem? From age nine until his mid-teens, he had to communicate with teachers and classmates by handwritten notes. A high school English teacher gave him the help he needed, but he still struggles. Yet there is no finer speaking voice than his.

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