By: Taylor Napolitan
On Tuesday, May 3, 2022, motivational speaker, and former NFL player Shamiel Gary shared his inspirational message with our students in grades 6-12. Gary grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he attended Booker T. Washington High school. As a senior, Gary helped led his team to a 13-1 record and an Oklahoma 5A State Championship. He was recorded to have made 124 tackles and was named the 5A District 3 Defensive Player of the Year.
Gary started his college career at Wyoming State University, but transferred to Oklahoma State in his sophomore year, to be closer to his family. Due to transfer rules, Gary had to sit out his 2011 season, but played every game as safety for the Oklahoma Cowboys the following year. As a senior in college, Gary again led his team to a winning season, with their final record of 10-3. The team also placed second in the Big 12 Conference, the same year. Gary went on to play for the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, and the Buffalo Bills.
During his time at Eisenhower, Gary joined the high school freshman through senior classes during first period. He helped the students get to know him better by sharing facts about his family, describing his experience with jujutsu, and talking about his football career. Gary described his close relationship with his father, who served as the main inspiration to him throughout his childhood. Gary shared that his father would say things to him such as, “You are the key to your success” and, “Remember who you are.” Along with his support from his father, he also was supported by his late mother. Gary shared his memories of his mother, saying, “She dealt with hard times, but she had hope.” With the helpful words of his parents, Shamiel was able to feel support from his family.
Gratitude was the focus point of Gary’s speech. He started by saying that changing your mindset from “I have to” to “I get to” will forever change your perspective of your life and its value. Gary stated, “You have to learn about people; you have to ask people questions, so you know what they’re going through.” Following this statement, Gary asked the room questions and asked them to stand up if they agree. He asked if their favorite color was red, if they enjoyed pineapple on pizza, and if they enjoyed watching anime. He also asked questions like if you have ever felt bad about yourself, if you have ever compared yourself to another person in the school, and if you have had a hard year and haven’t said anything. The more personal the question, the fewer people stood.
Gary called out the kids for this. He shared that no one should feel less than what they are. That they should be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what they see. Gary continued, stating, “We care so much about what people think about us, our friends, family, teachers, and community. This is what makes us have regrets…we all go through things in life where we need to sit back, relax, and analyze the situation.” Gary then asked the group a set of valuable questions, “How do you want to be remembered? What is your legacy?” Gary finished his speech by saying, “Stop comparing yourself to anyone else…everyone has unique gifts, talents, and experiences.” He went on to say that high school will end, and, when it does, breaking the bad habits you have created will be difficult. Think and try harder than what you are doing now, and do your best, always. He wrapped his message up by telling everyone to, “Make someone else’s life better.” The Squire editors – Lydia Larson, Hannah Newcamp, and Taylor Napolitan – stayed after his presentation to ask him a few more questions.
In a small interview after Shamiel’s speech, The Squire editors asked, “Who or what inspires you to be an inspirational speaker?” Gary replied, “I talk about right voices, right choices, I believe everyone has the power to use their voice to influence other people to do better. I have had so many people speak life to me in my life…Tyrell Brown, Rashid, my dad…that’s my passion and purpose, I feel like.” When the editors asked about how being a motivational speaker has influenced his life, he replied, “It’s held me accountable…so a lot of the things I speak about…I would like to live what I’m speaking about…I would just feel like a hypocrite if I talked about positivity, and gratitude, and honoring yourself and not actually doing it.” Gary adds, “I get to see different people across the country who are dealing with tough stuff you guys could never imagine, things like abuse, parental abandonment, going through adoption, foster systems…it’s pretty crazy thinking about the life people have to live, and their ability to overcome. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s also a heartbreaking thing.” Gary shows his connections with these kids throughout his journeys across the country by taking photos and talking with the kids who felt an impact.
The Squire staff and the students at Eisenhower Middle-High School would like to thank Shamiel Gary for spreading awareness of societal problems in school, influencing self-support and care, helping students feel heard, giving kids a new look at schoolwork ethic, and inspiring students in many ways.