2005 graduate Brandon White gives motivational speeches

White has also written book and is a a professional ballroom dancer

March 11, 2016

LEFT: 2005 graduate Brandon White’s senior yearbook photo. RIGHT: Sitting down, White  smiles. (Submitted photo)
LEFT: 2005 graduate Brandon White’s senior yearbook photo. RIGHT: Sitting down, White smiles. (Submitted photo)

When he describes his profession, 2005 graduate Brandon White calls himself a “people mover.” Inspired in part by his time in high school, he has pursued a career in motivational speaking; he speaks to adults and young people on topics such as risk-taking, leadership and character, and said he has spoken in almost all of the 50 states.

In his speeches and at his events, he encourages his audiences, which frequently consist of youth, to take chances and be true to themselves.

“The main thing that I talk about, the main message that I talk about, is to own it,” White said via phone. “Two words, own it. That’s my main motto. You see the opportunity, and you take the risk. And you don’t want to leave high school knowing that you were too shy or scared to be yourself or pursue your goals.”

White started attending Mill Valley after moving to Shawnee from Missouri, and said the change was big.

“It was kind of scary, it was a bit of a bigger school,” White said. “I was coming from a place with graduating class of 50. My mom gave me a chance to look at other schools in the Shawnee area, and I eventually decided Mill Valley was the place for me.”

While at the school, White was involved in drama, debate, forensics, band, jazz band, choir, track, basketball, football and StuCo. He was a drum major in the band and StuCo president by his senior year. That year, he also played the lead role of Conrad Birdie in the school musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Monticello Trails Middle School choir director Bob Velazquez was Mill Valley’s theater director during White’s time as a student. Velazquez thinks White was a positive influence on the department.

“He was a positive and likable leader with the cast,” Velazquez said via email. “He treated everyone with respect and as a friend … [White] was a talented actor who came to rehearsals with a wonderful positive attitude.”

It was White’s experience in StuCo that first made him consider motivational speaking as a career.

“I joined StuCo my senior year, and that summer before the school year, we all went to StuCo camp,” White said. “And when I was at camp here, I loved it. I was all about that, the positive energy. I saw this speaker, and his name was Earl Reum. He was this short, funny guy, and he made everyone laugh. And everyone knew he was really sincere. I was inspired by that.”

2005 graduate Neil McLeod knew White from band during high school, and believes White’s career choice was only natural.

“So, does it surprise me that Brandon is currently a motivational speaker? Nope,” McLeod said. “He was always very articulate, and was a great leader for the school during pep assemblies and as a drum major.”

Looking back, White believes he wasn’t the best leader in high school, but those years gave him the experience to be able to speak about leadership today.

“Now that I talk about leadership and wrote a book about leadership, [I’ve] realized I wasn’t as good a leader as I thought I was,” White said. “Even though I was in that position, I wasn’t delegating and working with other StuCo members like I could have. Also, I was doing things outside of school that were hypocritical, like partying. So, sometimes I felt like my walk didn’t always match my talk. But, having that experience as StuCo president allowed me to make those mistakes, so now I can teach others what it’s like to be a leader, even if you’re not in a leadership position.”

After high school, it would be years before White decided to pursue a career in motivational speaking. In college at Rockhurst University, he first explored ballroom dancing, a skill which he now incorporates into his speeches.

“[Speaking] was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t sure yet,” White said. “So, I got involved in ballroom dancing. So I started a program where I taught ballroom to elementary school kids, and I used it to teach about etiquette. Now, I have this niche that no one else has. I went to this speaker boot camp, learned the tricks of the trade and all that. That was six years ago now. Since then, I’ve been all over the country speaking about leadership and character.”

Since then, White has founded his company, Let It Move Inc., spoken at [email protected] and written his book titled “Don’t Be a Lamesauce: A Ridiculously Effective Book on Student Leadership.”

According to White, the book was a way to both share his message and learn about himself.

“[Writing the book] was really intimidating at first, and I went through like eight different rough drafts, but it was cool because it forced me to get my beliefs down on paper, and that helped me figure out what I believe,” White said. “It talks about, no matter what, even if you’re not in a position, about living with leadership qualities. Character and courage, and inspiring others through your actions. Character, courage and authenticity.”

Because he works for himself, White said managing his business is challenging, but rewarding.

“It’s awesome because I get to wear sweatpants to work if I want,” White said. “Or go to the gym, or make my own schedule. It also comes with a lot of self-discipline because I have to make the calls, send the emails, book the engagements. I can’t just clock in, clock out, get a paycheck. I have to work for it.”

White said although he had a successful high school career, he wishes he had taken more time to enjoy his high school experience, and he now encourages others to do so. But he still enjoyed his experience in high school, and hopes to come back some day.

“I was really busy trying to experience all these things, and also, I wanted to accomplish a lot,” White said. “Looking back now, if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have worried so much at trying to be such a huge success in high school. Instead, I would focus on doing the things I love because I love them, instead of what would look good on a resume, and take time to hang out with friends more often, and enjoying those relationships, knowing now that your time in high school is short. One of these days I’ll come speak at Mill Valley. I’m just waiting for the phone call.”

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