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Les Brown Galvanizes Orlando’s Business Talent for Greatness at the Dr. Phillips Center



World-renowned motivational speaker Les Brown speaks at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Thursday, March 5, 2015.

by Mellissa Thomas

An intimate evening with world-renowned speaker Les Brown is, for many, a fantastical prospect, so they are content to watch his speeches on YouTube and Vimeo. However, J. Jackson, Sr.’s RYSE Interactive Inc. made the opportunity real for Orlando’s entrepreneurs and businesspeople at an incredible price. Brown, who typically speaks for six figures per appearance, teamed with Jackson for Thursday’s sold out event at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at a ticket price of only forty dollars. His speech: “You Have Greatness Within You.”

The Event

Realtor and entrepreneur Zahide (pronounced “zah-day”) Wallace, a seasoned speaker herself, was the night’s emcee, and the cavernous DeVos Family Room welcomed over 300 guests with live jazz. Included in the ticket price was a free raffle ticket for prizes sponsored by La Vie Wellness Spa in Metrowest. There were three drawings, including a free fitness training session in feature film stuntwoman and actress Shellita Boxie’s Booty & the Beast Bootcamp.

RYSE Interactive Inc. CEO and Les Brown mentee J. Jackson, Sr.

RYSE CEO J. Jackson, Sr.

At 8:24 p.m. District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill declared a proclamation on behalf of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, honoring J. Jackson, Sr., RYSE Interactive Inc., and Les Brown with March 5th as their official day.

To introduce J. Jackson, Sr., Wallace spent her final moments on stage recalling how she met him, because he was a successful realtor prior to starting RYSE Interactive. “I was just starting out in the business…and a friend of mine said, ‘you should talk to J. Jackson, he’s kind of a big deal’.” She explained that Jackson took much precious time to assist and guide her, connecting her with other successful people who could augment her own success.

RYSE logo


Jackson took the stage at 8:35 p.m., thanking the event sponsors, including BB&T Bank. “When Jay came to me with this idea, it took me about thirty-five seconds to say yes,” said Antonio T. “Tony” Coley, BB&T Bank’s Central Florida Regional President and Jackson’s personal friend. “Being born in Miami, like Mr. Brown, and listening to his speeches all my life, it made sense to partner with Jay for this event.” Jackson presented Coley with a RYSE plaque of appreciation for BB&T’s continuous support from RYSE’s inception.

As he introduced Les Brown, Jackson enthralled the audience with his story of how he met him. Jackson was in the throes of growing RYSE, a magazine aimed at “Rising Young Executives and Entrepreneurs” (the RYSE acronym), and hit a low point in 2012. By then, he had stumbled upon Brown’s material on Google while searching for a way to get “unstuck” in his business and began listening to him daily. A friend informed Brown of Jackson’s venture and passed along his contact information. One late night, Jackson received a call from an unfamiliar number and let it go to his voicemail. When he played it back, he was shocked to realize it was Brown himself. He replayed the voice message for the audience to hear, live on stage, with Mr. Brown seated just a few feet away. Brown ended his voice message with, “God bless the day you were born.” Jackson called him back, and their relationship grew.

The Man of the Hour

Brown received a standing ovation as he graced the stage at 8:44 p.m. His photo and speech title, “You Have Greatness Within You,” were emblazoned on the two projector screens flanking him. Right away he got the audience involved with a question. “How many entrepreneurs do we have in the audience? Raise your hands, please.” He then asked of those who were corporate executives, those who are speakers, then for those who wanted to make money as a speaker. “Oh, a lot more hands went up on that one,” he remarked with a witty lilt, drawing laughter.

He briefly recalled his family history, sharing that he was adopted and loved his mother dearly. He wanted to make her proud more than anything else. He also briefly mentioned an “angel”, a doctor who befriended him in the hospital while going through his prostate cancer treatments. “Brother, you’re going to be fine,” he had said. “That completely dispelled my fear,” Brown shared.

He then introduced his wife Julie, a dynamo who is both an M.D. and Ph.D. She briefly motivated the audience herself, speaking particularly to the women, even asking them to stand applaud themselves.

Brown spent the following eighty-nine minutes providing tips and strategies for the listeners to stand out and be successful in their respective industries while injecting his own personal experiences that not only roused roaring laughter, but made strong points, embodying the very advice he gave Jackson: “Never make a point without telling a story, and never tell a story without making a point.” One such point was, “you’ve gotta be hungry”—to take dreams seriously and never stop at “no.”

He used his foray into radio as an illustration. He went to the radio station and expressed his desire to become a DJ. He was turned away for his lack of experience (he had none). He returned the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and kept coming until the man he kept speaking to, Mr. Butterball, could only say, “…Go get me some coffee, boy!” Once he got his foot in the door, he ran errands for the DJs at the station, including picking celebrities up from the airport and driving them around in the DJ’s cars—despite not having a driver’s license.

However, an opportunity opened up on a Saturday when a specific DJ, who was the only one in the studio besides Brown, was drinking on the job to the point that he couldn’t finish his show. The station manager called and asked him to call around and find out if any other DJs would be available to sub in. After waiting roughly twenty minutes, he called the manager back and said no one was available. The manager in turn asked him to work the boards, but not to say anything on the air. Brown did the exact opposite. He used the opportunity to jump on and wowed the audience with his pizzazz, and the rest was history.

Brown’s Seven Takeaways for Awakening the Greatness Within

1. Become a more effective communicator. It is the weapon that makes you unstoppable, and it gives you access to relationships you would not otherwise have.

2. Create collaborative, achievement-driven, supportive partnerships.

3. Expand your skill set. Always improve and reinvent yourself to get an edge.

4. Surround yourself with OQP: only quality people, people who know more than you do.

5. Distract, dispute, and inspire: Distract people’s (and your own) negative stories about themselves (and yourself), dispute the negativity with positive counterpoints, and inspire with valuable, immediately actionable information.

6. Make yourself stand out. Provide more service, and you’ll get paid more.

7. Ask for help—not because you are weak, but because you want to remain strong—and do not stop asking until you get it.

What’s Next for Les

The nineteen-year “cancer survivor and thriver” just turned seventy on February 17th, and he told the audience he was wondering to himself, “What’s next for you, Les? You’re seventy! What’s next?” He plans to coach a new course for entrepreneurs and businesspeople and continue to train his descendants to take over the business. He had everyone complete his opt-in form and survey, gave the audience his email address, and dictated what to use in the subject line. He promised to email the attendees four different motivational videos to help them become successful and all but guaranteed it, as long as they follow his exact steps. “I only train millionaires or millionaires in training.”

As a gift for the audience, he offered one hour of free coaching to three lucky winners he randomly drew from the stack of opt-in forms. One winner was Donald Colson, a Clermont Toastmasters member who had recently won the Toastmasters’ International Speech Contest.

Brown closed at 10:15 p.m. with another powerful point on how to stand out: “People don’t pay me for the hour. They pay me for the value I bring to the hour.”

The guests came away empowered, but for Jackson, this event was much more. “Les Brown is a personal mentor to me,” Jackson noted Wednesday, “so this event is my tribute to him.”


Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023



WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit or

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A Quick Primer on the Team Solving Orange County’s Affordable Housing Crisis



Orange County’s Housing for All Task Force held its introductory meeting on April 12, 2019 at the Board of County Commissioner Chambers. Photo: Orange County Government.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Orange County faces a growing affordable housing crisis, and Mayor Jerry Demings has taken notice–and action. Shortly after his inauguration, he formed Housing For All, an affordable housing task force to face the challenge head-on.

The Housing For All task force doesn’t meet monthly like the County Commission–in fact, their next meeting won’t be until October 4, 2019–but they do work when they’re not meeting. The task force is made up of three subcommittees, Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee and Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee. These three subcommittees meet twice a month to come up with ideas and plans to fix the affordable housing problem.

Each subcommittee has a specific focus on ways to help solve the problem of affordable housing. The Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee is focused on the design of new affordable housing projects, the renovation of current affordable housing that might need fixing and land development for affordable housing units. The Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee is focused on making sure affordable housing is accessible to the major economic zones of the city, develop partnerships with groups and focus on outreach in the county. The Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee is focused on finding ways to increase the supply of affordable housing and how to preserve affordable housing.

At their next meeting in October these subcommittees will update the county on what they have accomplished and what they plan to do in the future. For information from previous Housing for All Task Force meetings or the meeting schedule, visit the Orange County Government website.


Leyton Blackwell is a photojournalist and Florida National News contributor. |

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Opening Biopic ‘Te Ata’ Sets High Bar for 2016 Orlando Film Festival



ORLANDO: Chickasaw Nation Biopic 'Te Ata' Sets Stage for Orlando Film Festival.

ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) – Orlando Film Festival kicked off at Cobb Theaters in Downtown Orlando Wednesday night. The red carpet came alive with excited filmmakers and actors ready to showcase their projects to the Orlando community and, in some cases, to the world at large, including Nathan Frankowski, director of this year’s opening feature Te Ata.

About Te Ata

Frankowski’s biopic feature chronicles the true story of Chickasaw actress and storyteller Mary Frances Thompson, whose love of stories and the Chickasaw Nation fueled her to share the Chickasaw culture with new audiences in the early 1900s, a time when the United States was still growing as a nation and clashed with Native American peoples in the process.

Viewers are immediately swept into the saga from the film’s opening scene with a voice-over folk tale told by Mary Thompson’s father, T.B. Thompson (played by Gil Birmingham). Ironically, though his storytelling places the seed of inspiration in her, it slowly becomes a source of friction between them as she ages.

What makes the film engrossing is the sprawling backdrop upon which Thompson’s journey takes place. While young Te Ata (which means “The Morning”) flourishes with each solo performance and eventually sets her sights on Broadway, the Chickasaw Nation is fighting to secure the funding due them from the U.S. government in the face of ethnocentrism and religious bigotry–to the point that the government passed a law forbidding the sale of traditional Native American textiles and creations, which caused further financial struggle for the Chickasaw Nation. Viewers even experience the Thompsons’ fish-out-of-water feeling as the Chickasaw people’s territory, Tishomingo, shrinks significantly to become part of the newborn state of Oklahoma.

The political tensions are counterbalanced with Te Ata’s experience. Te Ata does her first performances among family, but chooses to leave home for the first time in her life to attend the Oklahoma College for Women (known today as University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma), despite her father’s wishes for her to find a job at home. Viewers immediately empathize with Te Ata’s awkward experience upon her arrival at the predominantly Caucasian-attended College, but cheer her on when that one connection is made, because all it ever takes is one.

Te Ata’s jumping off point occurs when she meets drama teacher Frances Dinsmore Davis, who encourages her to join her class and to share the Chickasaw stories for her senior presentation instead of the usual Shakespeare recitation. From there, Te Ata’s career blossoms from one serendipitous connection to another, taking her performances across the country. She eventually makes it to New York City, hustling to find her place on Broadway, and finds love in the process while performing privately for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband was then Governor of New York. The heroine’s journey continues with well-placed highs and lows, keeping the viewer visually and emotionally engaged.

Te Ata is touchingly channeled through lead actress Q’orianka Kilcher who, like Te Ata, has stage experience, and brought it to bear in the role. Kilcher’s magnetic singing, with the help of the film’s sweeping score and indigenous songs, imprints the true Te Ata’s passion for her people onto the viewer’s heart.

Frankowski, who worked closely with the Chickasaw Nation in creating the film, honors Te Ata’s memory and legacy in a cohesive, sweeping tale that will edify audiences everywhere.



Florida National News Editor Mellissa Thomas is an author and journalist, as well as a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps business owners, CEOs, executives, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.

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