Bonnie St. John spoke at the State Theatre this week to a crowd of mostly women. This was the third show in the SmartTalk series that brings in strong, successful women to inspire the audience. Bonnie captured our attention in more ways than one after the moderator, Magic 98.3 personality Debbie Mazella introduced her.
In case you don’t know her history, Ms. St. John was born with one leg that didn’t fully grow to match the length of her other leg. At the age of five she had it amputated, and uses a metal prosthetic to walk. When she was a teen, a friend asked Bonnie to join her and her family on a ski vacation. She did, and that adventure changed her life.
St. John went on to become a Paralympic medalist in ski racing, a Harvard grad, Rhodes scholar, worked in the White House under the Clinton administration, and the list goes on. She started out as a young, African-American, amputee girl from a single parent household, and has become very accomplished woman who has gotten where she is by setting extremely high goals for herself.
She didn’t speak at the podium, reading notes like some other speakers do. Instead, she stood in the middle of the stage and spoke directly to us. This made her presentation more personal, which was appropriate, because she shared many personal experiences. The audience applauded often in agreement to the inspirational stories, but at times I saw tears because Bonnie had touched many with her honesty, like when she shared that she was a victim of sexual abuse during her childhood. We could all relate to her in one way or another. There was also lots of laughter since she was very witty.
Ms. St. John asked us at the end what we would take away from our evening. Most indicated they were energized to accomplish more goals. She suggested what we should first consider doing less. We were puzzled. She added doing less of what makes us less productive. If we were to weed out all of the trivial things we do in a day that weren’t really necessary, we would have more time to do the things we need to do to achieve our goals.
She recently co-authored the book How Great Women Lead with her teenage daughter Darcy Deane, who has been a TEDx speaker. Darcy is interested in a career as a linguistic anthropologist and studies Chinese, Spanish, and ancient Greek. Obviously, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
I must be honest, I had never heard of Bonnie St. John before she was listed as a speaker for SmartTalk, and I didn’t know what to expect, but after hearing her, I now understand why NBC Nightly News called her “One of the five most inspiring women of the world”. Not only does she have a riveting story to tell, but she knows HOW to tell it. St. John is a very effective motivational speaker, so if you ever have the chance to see her, I suggest you buy tickets!
SmartTalk always seem to find the most incredible women to inspire their audiences. There are two more performances remaining for the season. Dr. Ruth will be at the State Theatre in April, and Marie Osmond in May. Tickets are still available, so hope to see you there!
All photos taken by wedding and event photographer Neil of ITM Photos (21st Century Digital Photography).