George E. Curry
For more than two decades, George E. Curry has taught college students, non-profit supporters as well as corporate leaders and team members how to reject rejection and turn potential obstacles into sources of inspiration for success.
Whether speaking before the National School Boards Association, the FDIC, the U.S. Army National Training Center or at commencement ceremonies at Kentucky State University or Lane College (where he was awarded honorary doctorate degrees), Curry always informs, inspires and encourages his audience to remove any perceived limitations on what they are capable of achieving. Instead of urging his audience to “think outside the box,” he tells them: “Throw the box away.”
Growing up in segregated Alabama, he saw signs – literally – that indicated Blacks were not considered equal to Whites. Entrances to separate public facilities were marked “Whites” and “Colored.” If Curry wanted to ride the bus, he had to sit or stand behind a white line in the middle of the bus; all of the seats in the front were reserved for Whites. And when his mother completed her day as a domestic worker, she would be driven to her home in the housing projects, but had to ride in the back seat even though only two people were in the car.
“As crazy as it sounds, that inspired me,” Curry says. “It made me more determined to succeed. I told my three younger sisters that although we were too poor to pay attention, we were going to attend college – and all of us did. I told them if we ever rode in the back seat of anyone’s car, it would be because we were being chauffeured.”
That attitude of rejecting rejection carried over into Curry’s adulthood. When he began his career in journalism, The Tuscaloosa News, his hometown newspaper, did not hire African Americans. So rather than putting himself in position to be rejected by that newspaper, he became a reporter for Sports Illustrated, the largest sports magazine in the world.
Curry would go on to distinguish himself in journalism by serving as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a Washington correspondent and New York bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, authoring four books, writing and serving as chief correspondent for a PBS “Frontline” television documentary on affirmative action, being featured in a segment of One Plus One, a PBS documentary on mentoring, being named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists, editing a national news magazine (Emerge), and becoming the first African American to serve as president of the American Society of Magazine Editors. Today, he is nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a frequent commentator on radio and TV.
His first book proposal was rejected by 25 publishers. Four years later, his proposal was accepted by one of the companies that had initially rejected it. Consequently, he has both letters framed at home – one rejecting his book proposal and the second saying how “delighted” the editor was to enclose a signed copy of the contract and a check for the advance due on signing.
Curry has appeared on practically every major TV news show, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, the CBS Evening News, ABC’s World News Tonight, 20/20, CNN, C-SPAN, BET, TV One, Fox Network News, MSNBC and ESPN.
He was appearing on C-SPAN not long ago when he heard a familiar voice from his past.
“This lady called in with an Alabama twang,” Curry recalls. “Before long, I realized it was someone my mother had babysat as child. Her parents owned the only bank in town, so you know she came from money. Yet, here I was, the son of a domestic worker, on national TV and the daughter of a banker was calling in to ask me questions. That shows that when you reject rejection, there is no limit on what you can accomplish.”
Drawing on his personal experiences and those of others, Curry helps you see how what are perceived as negative situations can be converted into positive experiences that transform your life forever, making you a stronger and more resilient person along the way.