Town Talk Features

Get Ignited: Andre Norman

Imagine waking up the morning with one goal in mind: How can I be helpful? This is how Andre Norman approaches each day. And Andre delivers. He may be the most charismatic person I’ve met. And, in Andre’s line of work, charisma is critical.

Andre was first invited to St. Louis by Suzie and Dave Spence. The Spences were closely involved with Roosevelt High School, a public school in St. Louis, and invited Andre to come to town to connect with the students. Andre not only inspired the students at Roosevelt, but he also inspired the administration, the faculty and everyone he came in contact with. Andre’s one-day speaking engagement turned into a 10-month project that is captured in the PBS documentary, Saving St. Louis, produced and directed by Dan Curran, founder and CEO of PowerPublish. The film captures how Andre used all of his gifts and talents to bring business leaders, political leaders, educators and gang leaders together to improve life for children in our region.

Andre isn’t just charismatic. He isn’t just a motivational speaker. And, he isn’t just a problem solver. He is someone who became ignited under the most difficult circumstances. As a young man, Andre was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. He became one of the most notorious gang leaders in the federal prison system. He was so feared by prison officials that they continuously moved him from one prison to another to keep him from exerting his influence. Then, while doing a two-year stint in solitary confinement, Andre had an epiphany: He decided to turn his life around to become a force for good.

Since that life-changing moment, he taught himself to read, studied law and earned his freedom. He also set his sights on Harvard. Andre went from prison gang leader to Harvard Fellow, top YPO speaker and international facilitator with a track record for bringing people together to overcome previously insurmountable obstacles. Today, he uses his innate ability to influence others to assist in crisis situations in the U.S., Africa, Europe, Central and South America, and beyond. He also founded the Academy of Hope, which helps measurably defuse and reduce violence in prison populations, and Second Chance, which helps people escape the cycle of gang involvement. Andre recently authored the book, The Ambassador of Hope: Turning Poverty and Prison Into a Purpose-Driven Life.

Andre is the person you want to see when the world turns upside down. He joined us for a Get Ignited podcast conversation in June of 2020 when racial tension was sweeping the nation after the murder of George Floyd. He started the conversation with this statement: “Let’s agree that, for the next piece of time, we’re going to work together to make the world a better place.” Andre then showed us what’s possible when we cut through the chaos to find the common ground needed to move forward.

To experience a dose of Andre Norman for yourself, tune in to our Get Ignited podcast conversation. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself compelled by his wisdom and feeling more hopeful about the future. As Andre says, it all begins with a simple question: “How can I be helpful?”

Beth Chesterton is a master certified executive coach and an expert in organizational development.

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