The Promise: Summary and book reviews of The Promise by Oral Lee Brown, plus links to an excerpt from The Promise and a biography of Oral Lee Brown.
The Promise How One Woman Made Good on Her Extraordinary Pact to Send a Classroom of 1st Graders to College
by Oral Lee Brown, Caille Millner
Hardcover: Apr 2005,
Paperback: Dec 2007,
In the bestselling tradition of The Pact and The Freedom Writers
Diarythe inspiring story of one woman's extraordinary promise and steely
determination to make a difference in the world.
One morning in 1987 Oral Lee Brown walked into a corner store in East
Oakland, California, to buy snacks for work. A little girl asked her for a
quarter, and Brown assumed that she wanted to buy candy, but surprisingly she
bought bread and bolognastaples for her family.
Later that day Brown couldn't get the little girl out of her mind. Why wasn't
she in school? Why was she out begging for money to buy food for her family?
After several weeks of not being able to sleep, Brown went to look for the girl
at the local elementary school and soon found herself in a first-grade
classroom. She didn't find the little girl, but before she left she found
herself promising the kids that if they finished high school, she would pay for
their college education.
At the time, Oral Lee Brown made only $45,000 a year.
But years later, after annually saving and investing $10,000 of her own money
and establishing the Oral Lee Brown Foundation, this remarkable woman made good
on her promise: after nineteen of the original twenty-three students graduated
from high school, she sent them all to college. And in May of 2003, LaTosha
Hunter was the first of Brown's "babies," as well as the first person in her
family, to graduate from college.
This marvelous and inspiring book is the amazing story of one woman's
unending desire to make a difference. And if once was not enough, in 2001 Brown
made the same promise to three new classrooms of first, fifth, and
ninth-graders. Brown and her foundation are now committed to adopting a new crop
of kids to send to college every four years.
Brown's pledge to the students was not without great personal and public
sacrifice. Her promise turned her life upside-downit strained her
relationships, and at times required her to work several different jobs. Brown
also developed a strong emotional attachment to the childrenfor many of these
students Brown was the one consistent adult in their lives.
In a world short on heroes, altruism, and dedication, The Promise
shows that it is still possible to change lives for the better. This book will
encourage, uplift, and inspire every reader.
A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to the
Oral Lee Brown Foundation.
Brown is plainspoken, giving her views on everything from sternness to listening, the impact of special people in your life, to practical matters of setting up trust accounts and saving for your own child's higher education, even when your income is scant.
Booklist - Vanessa Bush
An inspirational look at the determination of one woman to make a difference in her community and in the lives of disadvantaged children.
Tavis Smiley, author and host, Tavis Smiley on PBS
With a selfless devotion that will inspire every reader, Mrs. Oral Lee Brown's story has the power to change the way we feel about doing the work that needs to be done. After reading this book, you will be empowered to take on challenges in your own life and community. Oral Lee Brown is the kind of hero we need more of!
The Honorable Don Perata, President pro Tempore, California State Senate
Oral Lee Brown is a remarkable role model. By adopting an entire elementary class, she continues to share her success and perseverance with our entire community. Surely, Oral Lee's efforts impact the students and their families, but her selflessness is an example for everyone. Most importantly, she helped cultivate Oakland's next community of leaders.
Erin Gruwell, author of The Freedom Writers Diary
What an amazing story, and what an amazing woman! Ms. Brown and her "kids" stand as a beacon of hope to students everywhere who lack the access, but not the drive to achieve higher education. This book will inspire you to reach inside of yourself and discover how you can become an advocate in your own community.
Oral Lee Brown was born in
Mississippi in the early 1940s. She is the ninth of twelve children
born to 'old-fashioned farming folk' who grew cotton and corn. Today
she lives in Oakland, California.
Although California reports an
official graduation rate of 87% to the Federal Government using a Federal
formula, on the Dept of State website they say the rate is closer to 71%
(based on the % of freshmen who enter high school and go on to earn a
diploma four years later). That number is troubling enough, but things
look even worse when broken down by ethnic group - according to
The Civil Rights Project at
Harvard the Californian graduation rate for African-Americans is 57%
(50% for boys) and 60% for Latinos (54% for boys).
Institute for Policy Research (which tracks public school graduation
rates across the nation) reports a similar picture across the USA, based on
its 2000 data: 69% overall, 53% Hispanic, 55% African-American, 76% White,
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