By Fred Keeton
VP of External Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, Caesars Entertainment Corp.
My dream for my country, colleagues, company, family, and myself is to create and sustain a nation where all have the opportunity to live their individual dreams while motivating and supporting others to do the same.
Growing up in rural Mississippi during a time when diversity was literally black and white, there were many obstacles that might have stopped my personal and professional growth. My father worked very hard as a railroad maintenance worker and my mother as a domestic maid—“the help”—with both having no options to aspire to something greater. They pushed my brothers, sisters, and me to accomplish things they never had an opportunity to, and instilled vision and determination to never give up. Their rural Mississippi African American “country” wisdom is my foundation. My parents constantly reminded us: “Can’t never could.” We have to believe we can when no one else does. “Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream.” Faith without works is dead. “If everybody agrees with what you say, you ain’t saying nothing. If everybody agrees with what you do, you ain’t doing nothing.” Counter what is routinely expected and accepted.
On my first office job, the supervisor told me I would never accomplish anything. He told my colleagues—all white—they could accomplish anything. So, I applied my parent’s wisdom and have soundly proved him wrong. Some of us are not immigrants. Our forefathers arrived involuntarily and under markedly different circumstances. However, all are Americans and expect the opportunity to live the dream nonetheless. Many of us experienced the birth of a new country through the civil rights movement, culminating with the end of legal segregation only 42 years ago.
Today, I am motivated to help others achieve what they may think impossible. Helping colleagues appreciate their “true selves,” and modeling a path to improvement helps both the business and individual thrive. Leaders must model a growth mindset, one that acknowledges the capacity in themselves and those they lead to both learn and achieve.
My advice to those striving to live their “American Dream” is to create it. Establish a specific plan with precise goals that challenge what you and others, even family or friends, might believe impossible and drive your desired results. Remember “Can’t never could,” “Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream,” and that many will not agree with what you say or do. Say and do anyway.