DAVIE — Attorney and philanthropist Willie E. Gary, known to many as “the Giant Killer,” heightened the ambitions of 850 Broward County high school juniors during a motivational speech this week.
Gary impressed upon the students that it is “important to focus on the mind if America is to continue to be the great nation that it is,” adding that he wanted to “praise and challenge the students” to ensure that they would “be at their best when making a difference.”
He also encouraged them not to “just dream, but set goals; blaze new trails and create new paths.”
Gary spoke March 31 at the 2009 Broward County Career Technical Education Student Conference,
“Living the American Dream: Transforming Dreams into Reality” at the Signature Grand in Davie.
Students and teachers representing high schools throughout Broward County attended.
The purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity for students to meet and interact with businesspeople who represent careers in their areas of interest.
“We were pleased to invite Mr. Gary,” said Sandy Dorsainvil, specialist for the School Board of Broward County’s career, technical, adult and community education department. “We needed someone with the ability to motivate the students.”
To inspire any student who may have doubts about themselves, Gary shared that as a young man, his desire was to become successful, but he was told that he was not college material.
Born one of 11 children in Eastman, Georgia, and having worked as a sharecropper throughout the South’s migrant farming communities, Gary said he “simply wasn’t taken seriously.’’
But, he said, “I refused to be denied, and you should never allow anyone to tell you what you cannot do.”
Gary earned his bachelor’s degree at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., and his Juris Doctor at North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C..
Throughout his career, he has won some of the largest jury awards and settlements in the U.S.
Gary travels in his own Boeing 737, and won a $240 million verdict against Disney. He now represents former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in a lawsuit against Skytel over steamy text messages that forced the mayor out of office.
Focusing on the female students, Gary emphasized the important role he feels women have in the success of their families.
“Although I have been the one receiving recognition, awards, honorary degrees; my wife, Gloria, has been the one standing by me,” he said.
He encouraged all students to “show each other respect, support them in their endeavors.”
Melissa Boone, a health science teacher at Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes, attended with eight of her students.
Boone said she wants students to take the message from Gary’s speech seriously in hopes that “it will encourage them to excel. I think what he has said here today can really be helpful to their future.”
Chad Borgelin, 17, a junior at Boyd Anderson who aspires to enter the medical field, described Gary’s speech as “motivating” and said that he is “now inspired to do more research, to expand on his career choices.
He added, “It’s a valuable experience offering resources to which many have not been exposed.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Willie Gary