As an actor and motivational speaker, Hill Harper speaks regularly to students and young adults about the importance of education, purpose, and confidence.
Many of his speaking engagements are at public schools and universities, where young men approach him with questions about achieving their dreams, surviving hardships, and overcoming adversity.
"It's like they wanted some type of role model-based manual from a male and they didn't have that," Harper said in a phone interview.
IF YOU GO
Hill Harper will speak, answer questions, and autograph books at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Strahanan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $10; $8 for students. Tickets are available at library branches and at the door. Books may be purchased at the event. Seating is on a first-come basis. Information: 419-259-5266.
As a black male, raised in a single-parent home, Harper knows first hand some of the struggles his targeted audience deals with. So when he decided to write his first book, Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny, to offer encouragement and guidance to a "lost generation," Harper didn't have to look far for answers.
"In many ways, your situation is similar to my own," he wrote to a "young brotha" struggling with the absence of his father. "I, too, was raised by a single parent, only it was my mother who was absent while my father raised me. It made me question my worth, and I wondered if everyone who looked at me could see what she saw — that I was leave-able."
Harper, author of four books, will speak about his writings at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Stranahan Theater for Authors! Authors!, sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. He will focus on setting goals and turning dreams into realities.
"Many of us are walking around living smaller lives than we're meant to live," Harper said. "Don't allow yourself to dream smaller than you were meant to dream."
He is filming the ninth season of CSI: NY, where he plays Dr. Sheldon Hawkes. He also is active in the Obama campaign, and is working on his fifth book. Tight-lipped about the details, Harper would only say "it has to do with the incarceration crisis in this country."
While writing his most recent published work, The Wealth Cure: Putting Money In Its Place, Harper was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After treatment he was given a clean bill of health. It was then, Harper said, that he realized people could use the same steps he was using to fight his cancer to cure their financial ills beginning with diagnosis, a treatment plan, compliance with that plan, and maintenance, all of which lead to the "Wealth Cure."
A self-described fiscal conservative, Harper discusses healthy and unhealthy relationships with money, and what he calls smart and dumb money.
"An example of the dumbest money you can spend is credit card debt. Whatever material hit you get, say it's a TV, it's depreciating and you're paying interest on it," Harper said. "It's hard to catch up when every dollar you spend is worth less the next day."
The 46-year-old Iowa native graduated magna cum laude from Brown University and cum laude from Harvard Law School where he met and befriended Barack Obama during their first year as law students. Harper also graduated with a master's of public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. During his years at Harvard, he was a full-time member of Boston's Black Folks Theater Company.
An actor since age 7, Harper chose not to use his degrees and moved to Los Angeles to pursue professional acting. After more than a year in L.A. and a steady stream of rejection letters, Harper finally began landing substantial acting roles.
"It will happen for you, and the reason I am so certain is because it has already happened for me and it is still happening every day," Harper wrote to a "young sistah" in his second book, Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny, published in 2008.
Both it and Letters to a Young Brother used the format established by Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet. Each chapter is a letter that begins with a quote. Questions posed via email are answered by a famous, successful man or woman such as Nikki Giovanni, Michelle Obama, Nas, Jerry Bruckheimer, and President Obama, who at the time was a U.S. senator.
"So many of our young women today, they're growing up without a father, but they're still thirsty for that and desiring positive male love," Harper said. "They needed a hug from a platonic older male that doesn't want anything from them. This is a case where I could write a hug on paper."
The son of a psychiatrist and an anesthesiologist, Harper admitted that his struggles growing up weren't exactly the same as the young men and women who show up at his talks or those he helps through his Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, but he's certain he understands their plights.
"People always want to think that because you're not from a certain circumstance, you can't relate. That's ridiculous," Harper said. "If the barometer was that we all have to have this shared experience to help each other, we'd be in big trouble.
"Fundamentally, we all want the same thing," Harper added. "We want to love. We want to be loved and we want to matter."
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.