In an assembly that started as part stand-up and part music concert and ended with many in the audience wiping their tears away, motivational speaker Reggie Dabbs today told students at Exeter Township Junior High School that they should never, ever give up. “At 13 years old, I couldn’t see who I am today,” he said. “I cried myself to sleep every night. I thought that nobody cared about me. I felt so unloved because even my own momma gave me up. She kept my brother and she kept my two sisters, but she said I was a mistake and gave me away.”
Through an emotional retelling of his childhood, Reggie recounted how he found out that he was living with people who were not his biological parents at just 6 years old. “I went into kindergarten and all of the kids had their names on their desk with their first and last name. Mine just said ‘Reggie.’” It was then that he found out he was living with foster parents and that his biological mother had given him to the Dabbs. “I didn’t have a real last name until I was 13 years old when they adopted me.”
But despite the outcome of his adoption and his healthy home environment, Reggie’s past continued to haunt him through his early adolescence. “I wasn’t ok,” he said. “I wanted to scream ‘why me?’...My story may be different than yours, but I guarantee you we are all going through something that makes it hard to sleep at night.” He said he finally realized he couldn’t change his past, but he could change his future. “I made a choice: I now choose to be hope. I choose to be kind. I choose to be love,” he said, asking those in attendance, “What will you choose?” before he asked everyone to point to their neighbor and say, “Don’t you give up!” and then point to him/herself and say, “I won’t give up!” and then point to their other neighbor and say “Let me love you” before he launched into a rendition of DJ Snake and Justin Beiber’s “Let Me Love You” on his soprano saxophone.
Click our video to see a few highlights from today–including a special tribute and appreciation to teachers, who he says, are responsible for allowing him to become who he is. “My foster mom was a school teacher and my foster father was a school janitor, and they are my heroes," he said earlier in his presentation. "Boys like me become men like me because of people like (teachers)... I am the product of the public school system... Boys like me make it because of people like you.”