Throughout college and after college, Braxton and I kept in touch. Braxton went to Harvard to become a successful attorney who handles high-profile legal cases. Honey and I lost contact during college, and I ended up moving back to Atlanta after getting my Master of Business Administration degree. “Two years after graduation, I opened Kirkwood Academy in Decatur. Each school year, students from lower income families are able to apply for a scholarship for free tuition, and they are able to maintain free tuition each year after, if they meet the attendance and academic requirements.
It has always been my dream to expose our youth in lower income families, to a life they’re not accustomed to. My dream is to give them the hope, and show them how to turn that hope into their reality. After a few years of successfully running my private school, I opened the John Kirkwood community center in east Atlanta. We focus on health and financial wealth. The community center is open to families of any size or age who resides in the Atlanta area.
For a reasonable monthly fee, families have access to our fitness center, inside pool and sauna, gym, and various dance classes. There are activities for babies and small children, and special activities for senior citizens including Bingo nights. Families can sign up for financial wealth seminars, and there are mentoring programs in place for our youth. I never expected this journey to take me where I am today. There’s a saying, “If you want God to laugh, tell him your plans.”
Although my dreams did become a reality, I never in a million years would have thought that I’d one day become chairman of Fulton County board of commissioners, but that’s where my journey has taken me, and the people have spoken. It wasn’t an easy journey. People know my family’s history. They often question just how I’ve attained the success that I have today. People have tried to corrupt the name that I’ve worked hard to change, but for anyone who has doubts about me, I will say this…
Everything I have was earned the right way. I didn’t get here on my own; it took God and it took community. As chairman of commissioners, I will keep these two things at the forefront when it comes to this great city. I believe that our youth are our future, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that each of them, no matter their background, will have access to a good quality education, and a everyone young and old, will have the opportunity to experience a good quality of life. Thank you.”
Everyone gave a standing ovation. “John Kirkwood, everyone. That was a powerful testimony and we are not only honored, but looking forward to your vision and being a part of your team,” Commissioner Houston said. “Oh, John. You did so good!” aunt Brenda said, as I walked back to our table.
I hugged her tight, and thanked her for giving me an opportunity that I probably would have never had if she hadn’t first made the decision to strive for greatness. We she achieved greatness, she reached back and pulled me up to greatness, and that’s what it’s all about. Never forget where you come from. Always give back. The Bible says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
My life is dedicated to paying it forward. “I’m so proud of you John,” my mom said, before giving me a hug. “Thank you mom, for everything. I love you,” I said. “I love you too,” she said.
I didn’t get to where I am by luck or accident. When I look back over my life, there was a series of decisions that lead me here. As I said in the beginning, “Sometimes in life the unexpected happens, and it changes the trajectory of our lives, and/or the people in our lives, forever.” A major unexpected event in my life, happened when I moved to New York with aunt Brenda. Becoming chairman of commissioners is the second major unexpected event, but in both situations, it’s all a part of God’s plan.
I don’t know where this journey will take me, and I dare not get ahead of myself. In the meantime, I will continue to be faithful with what God has given me, and make the most of everything He has entrusted me with. One thing I’ve learned throughout the course of my life is, if you’re faithful today, God will take care of your tomorrow’s.