“Promise of a Pencil” inspires

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Entrepreneur and author Adam Braun has spoken in front of the White House, the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative. On Monday, Oct. 26, the founder of Pencils of Promise presented before a packed-out Dibden.

He told the noisy, excited crowd that this presentation would be one-of-a-kind; he was ditching his normal method. He shed light on his personal story through photos and videos he’d never shown during lectures, and highlighted the inspirational mantras that chapter his book “The Promise of a Pencil.”

Most of the room raised their hands at having read this year’s Common Reading Initiative title.

“Make your life a story worth telling,” was the leading mantra, the one he used to eventually quit his Wall Street path and write his memoir/leadership story. After meeting an impoverished boy in India who desired a pencil more than anything, Braun started a bank account with $25, and raised enough money to go to Laos to start a school for the undereducated.

Currently, Pencils of Promise (P.O.P.) is responsible for over 300 schools, spanning India, Latin America and Africa.

Braun spoke effectively from his no-notes format and targeted the freshman, who made up at least 75 percent of the room. First he teeter-tottered from inspirational quotes about growing wings to the stark truth that everyone in the room would one day perish.

“What is the legacy of your life going to be? What are they going to say when you’re no longer here?” said Braun. “Ideally, right in this moment, as you start your college journey and have the opportunity to dictate what you want to be in the world you will be very intentional about [this].”

Braun wasn’t all about living so far in the future; many of his lessons involved living in the moment and saying yes to making memories, especially if it’s midnight in a faraway country. He’s an advocate for traveling, as his own journeys are directly responsible for where he is now. “True self discovery begins where your comfort zone ends” was another mantra. This can be applied even if one has already lived through the 18 to 23 window.

He pointed out that everyone has two versions of themselves, the aspirational versus the real world. One is constantly weighing which path they are headed down. “We all get paralyzed,” said Braun, noting that starting something life-defining seems overwhelming. “What we don’t realize is that where you start is often very different where you end up.”

This led to a video of a toddler girl standing afraid at the edge of a diving board. This is us, and the boy who comes up behind her and pushes are those people and guiding signs that aid us in making uncomfortable, important decisions amidst a sometimes unknowable path. Braun is also an advocate for surrounding yourself with the right people, saying, “You are only as strong as the best person in your corner.”

A later video shows a kooky man sending a one-millimeter domino into one slightly bigger, which eventually knocks down a hundred pound block. “Tip a lot of one millimeter dominoes,” said Braun in relation to how hard work brings the small wins. “Every person has a revolution beating in their chest,” he added. The videos seemed to make his quotes more tangible. He had the crowd laughing throughout the 90-minute talk.

Other videos made the crowd “aw,” like the one where Braun meets three little girls who would become some of the first P.O.P. sponsored preschoolers. Even the more doctored videos were effective, citing that one college DJ sold records to build a school, one marathoner ran to raise funds, and one asked for donations instead of birthday presents to help build.

Braun asked everyone to take out their phones and e-mail “c” or “a” to Adam@iPromise.org, signifying if they would like to get involved in P.O.P..

He highlighted that P.O.P. operates with 100 percent local leaders, that all schools are fully open and operational, and that 100 percent of donated funds go to the children.

This is made possible by events like the recent gala in New York City, opened by musician John Legend, which raised around 2 million dollars to pay P.O.P.’s employees and cover other operational expenses.
Braun ended with a Q and A, where he talked about how P.O.P. effectively trains local teachers; he revisited times where he saw himself not amounting to what he wanted, and how journaling offers a chance to sort and talk back to the constant voice in his head.

Student questions revealed that Braun is planning on starting another company to help the undereducated in America, and that his book has been tremendous in gaining support for, P.O.P. including helping convince their current CEO Michael Dougherty to take the job.

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