The Meaning of Hope: Motivational speaker visits Buffalo High School

The Performing Arts Center filled with students from all kinds of BHS classes and some students from Rogers High School. They were all there for one man and his name was Tommy Watson. His goal? To make a difference in their lives through motivation and hope.

Tommy Watson  Ed. D (candidate) started life in what you could call “less than ideal” conditions. He grew up with a mother and father both addicted to heroin and what he called “professional shoplifters,” who were in and out of jail his entire childhood. He recounted things like meeting his brother by pure coincidence in a foster home in 2nd grade and stashing his belongings in a neighbors garage because all of his families belongings were being possessed. He tried to go to a better high school, but his parents wouldn’t pay the enrollment fee. At one point he was living in a 10×16 room with two of his siblings and six drug addicted adults.

“We were often talked about, not just by students, but by teachers,” said Watson during his speech.

School was a struggle, oftentimes he had to work three times as hard as other kids to just get C’s. He eventually graduated, but not without first becoming “disengaged with the school process” and becoming a star athlete.

Photo by Rachel Ulfers

“Either I had to go to the NFL, or get an education,” said Watson.

At first, he chose the path of a professional athlete and after high school attended the University of Minnesota as a football player, but during his junior year suffered an injury, which made him realize that getting a solid education was a better path for him. Afterwards he became a high school principal, but recently gave it up to do what he came to Buffalo to do, speak.

During his talk Watson highlighted the three “V’s” to staying motivated; verbal affirmations, visuals, and values. Each “V” had a slide with ways to do this, an example from his own life, and then a question. “What will you do to achieve this?” He encouraged everyone to talk with a partner about this then took answers from the audience. In an otherwise quiet performing arts center, people came alive when talking about things to keep them motivated. When asked about their values many students piped up, and audience participation soared.

Students suddenly seemed to realize the point of this talk and yelled out things such as “family, morals, faith, friends, and being a good person” as things that were valuable in their lives.

Then Watson brought it to a dramatic point. He told the students to think of their values and then to never lose them for one very important reason.

“If a person can get you to give up your values, they can get you  to give up everything,” said Watson.

At the end of the presention, the floor was opened to questions. One student asked something we were all wondering. Why do this? After all he had a $120,000 a year job that he enjoyed before speaking.

“When I came to the University of Minnesota I vowed no one would hear my story, but then one of my coaches encouraged me to share it on Kare 11. Then I had a random person in Minneapolis come up to me and say that my story was their story too. I was willing to give up everything except my wife and kids to make this difference because I knew that at least one person here needed to hear what I have to say,” said Watson.

Below is the link to a video on Mr. Watson’s story done by Kare 11.


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Rachel Ulfers

Rachel is currently a PSEO student at NHCC during her senior year. She is in DECA, Hoofprint,and enjoys photography and playing with her overbearing yellow lab.

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