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Dr. Robert J. Brown of B&C Associates: 5 Steps Each of Us Can Take to Proactively Help Heal Our Country

I learned what it meant to sacrifice one’s own comfort for the sake of others from a young age. I saw my grandmother sacrifice the food we had, always feeding other people. As young men, my brother and I would observe our grandmother do this and didn’t understand why she gave so much of what […]

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I learned what it meant to sacrifice one’s own comfort for the sake of others from a young age. I saw my grandmother sacrifice the food we had, always feeding other people. As young men, my brother and I would observe our grandmother do this and didn’t understand why she gave so much of what looked like “not enough” for our own family. She taught me that it was “just enough” to share.

Aspart of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Robert J. Brown.

Dr. Robert J. Brown is Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of B&C Associates, Inc., a management consulting, marketing research and public relations firm headquartered in High Point, North Carolina. He is also the Chairman and CEO of B&C International, Inc., and President of International BookSmart Foundation.

B&C was founded in 1960 and has been privileged to serve many Fortune 500 companies including General Motors, The Coca-Cola Company, Nissan, Michelin North America, Inc., Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Sprint Corporation, and more. Brown served as President of CEO of B&C Associates, Inc. until 1968 when he took a leave of absence from the company to serve as Special Assistant to President Richard Nixon (returning as Chairman and CEO of B&C Associates, Inc. in 1973).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Iwas born and raised in High Point, N.C. with my grandmother in a Christian home. My professional life has afforded me global travel, and I have seen many exotic places. My heart remains in my birthplace, and I still live here because I love it. Historically, my interest in government began while serving as one of the first Black police officers in High Point. I was recruited from that position by the Bureau of Narcotics in New York City. Law enforcement introduced me to areas that motivated me to become an entrepreneur. Once I entered the business world, I met many people in various positions who opened the door for early exposure to the results of segregation and lack of equal rights.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are too many to mention. My grandmother gave me the book “It’s Up to You” by Ernest Holmes, which fostered my belief in self-motivation. It puts the responsibility upon your own shoulders to do and become whatever you desire.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

The title of my book “You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right.” These words by my grandmother continue to ring in my ear to this day. She raised me in a God-fearing home and with a heart to love and serve all humankind. Today, we are experiencing a battle with defining right and wrong — although that shouldn’t be the case, it is — and I realize that doing right by one another is a hard task.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The act of modeling a high level of work ethic, principles and strategies for one to reach success. As a person who values relationships, I have had the opportunity to model the power of collaboration. My book tells some of those experiences in detail.

In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Is there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?

The number of people who have influenced my life are vast in numbers. In the early years as a child, my fourth-grade teacher inspired me. By the fifth grade, I had an insatiable desire to learn. Of course my grandmother, my uncle, and my late wife (who was my best friend), were there as my biggest supporters. My White House experience under President Nixon widened the scope of what it meant to be in a position with global influence.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

The civil rights movement and the struggle against segregation was pivotal for our world. It changed my life. At the time, I began to work closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and many other ambassadors in the movement such as Congressman John Lewis (Ga.), Andrew Young Jr. (former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations), the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr., Rev. C.T. Vivian and Rev. Dr. Wyatt T. Walker. I became keenly aware of inequality and the lack of equal rights for all people. This period resonates with me because the challenges were similar to what we face today.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Over the years of being amidst many global leaders, I don’t feel that we have seen the kind of progress that we expected when we were in the civil rights movement. The appearance of progress based on the work we did then is not reflective of sacrifices that were made. When there are no checks and balances, you will not see sustainable progress. It is my belief that while we had thought there had been permanent changes made, we failed to remain vigilant in oversight. We failed to keep the torch light burning in the areas that Martin Luther King Jr. had surfaced.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

My life has been a continuum of this experience in all of my roles, whether it’s with corporations, in the White House, the civil rights movement, the seven corporate boards I currently serve on, or in countries including Africa and Asia. My company B&C Associates has a 50-year history of working with major corporations — both nationally and internationally — on diversity and inclusion issues. We have recommended solutions that directly relate to racial injustices. My government service allowed me to influence policies that changed laws in areas that are still of benefit today. My corporate work gave me an opportunity to build bridges and initiate policies that would help integrate the workforce at every level.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”? Kindly share a story or example for each.

Trust God and Have Faith

Be Humble

A willingness to serve

Give to others

Sacrifice

These are five of the 11 principles I mention in my book. This is the basis of my life as taught by my grandmother. If we don’t trust each other, we cannot appreciate each other. If we are not humble, we fail to hear or see the other persons point of view.

Serving is something we do by considering less-fortunate people, but we forget that serving can happen at every level. Companies should review what they have by way of programs such as employee wellness and departments like employee relations as benefits. Another thought on how to incorporate service in communities includes our local governments implementing surveys (to both internal and external customers), following up on the responses, and documenting and tracking the needs.

Giving is more often monetary but can also be done in forms of giving recognition and giving support to those who earn it. Giving and serving should be done only after understanding what the needs are. Organic serving and giving is based on what the other person needs, not what we presume they need.

I learned what it meant to sacrifice one’s own comfort for the sake of others from a young age. I saw my grandmother sacrifice the food we had, always feeding other people. As young men, my brother and I would observe our grandmother do this and didn’t understand why she gave so much of what looked like “not enough” for our own family. She taught me that it was “just enough” to share.

The basis of making decisions and standing firm on our values, ethics and morals should always be tethered to the ability to trust and be led by our faith.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?

Creating platforms for community members to voice concerns and protecting people from retaliation is vital for a municipality or corporation. Open door policies, more town halls, brain trusts and surveys (for example) are reflections of humbleness from an official or executive that says, “We are concerned and we understand there is something we need to hear in an effort to maintain consciousness in areas in which we need change.”

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

These issues can be changed, but the resolution of these issues will require long-term work. I saw segregation and apartheid change. Faith without fear will allow us to move toward resolutions. Once we genuinely learn to appreciate our cultural differences and experiences, we will begin to navigate toward restorative paths of healing.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Every generation needs to identify what the next rising generation requires, in the form of access to resources and best practices passed down.

How can our readers follow you online?

Bobbrownspeaks.com or directly via email [email protected]

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