Making a difference in each other’s lives

By: Gerry Rucchin
June 10, 2019

Orlando Bowen, the keynote speaker at the Joan Pedersen Annual Lecture, talks about being one voice, one team.

Orlando Bowen, the keynote speaker at the Joan Pedersen Annual Lecture, talks about being one voice, one team.

Everyone is on the journey of life together. In fact, each one of us will touch lives that we never knew we touched.

Orlando Bowen, keynote speaker at the Joan Pedersen Annual Lecture, told associate teachers and community members that everyone has the responsibility to ‘raise the bar and lift the floor’ to ensure each person has the opportunity to reach their potential.

“What are we willing to do with the gifts we’re given?” Bowen asked the audience.

Bowen said focusing on the possible, learning to let go, becoming servant-leaders and giving to others will make society better.

“It’s the heart of service that makes a world of difference.”

Bowen speaks from experience about letting go.

In 2004, two plainclothes police officers beat him and allegedly planted drugs on the professional football player with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Bowen was also criminally charged. He was exonerated in 2005 after one of the officers was arrested for drug trafficking. The beating, which resulted in a concussion, ended his football career.

Instead of being angry at the perpetrators, Bowen decided to forgive.

“Life is about perspective. It’s how you choose to live.”

As part of forgiving, Bowen placed himself in the shoes of the officers. When he looked at them in the courtroom, he saw their pain.

That’s when he realized “we have no idea what other people are dealing with.”

Once Bowen physically recovered, he founded and became Executive Director of ‘One Voice One Team Youth Leadership,’ an organization that helps youth reach their potential by providing support, guidance and opportunities. Since 2005, the organization has reached 300,000 youth in 700 schools.

His efforts have been recognized with the 2012 Diverse-City Fellows, the 2012 African Canadian Achievement Award, the 2013 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the 2014 Harry Jerome Award for community service.

Serving others has always been an important part of Bowen’s life. He left a high-paying job in Chicago to start his professional football career with the Toronto Argonauts because there were opportunities to volunteer.

The evening also recognized servant leaders in education and in the community with the presentation of the Awards for Excellence for associate teachers and Alternative Field Experience hosts. Bowen said it’s important to recognize the nominees and winners for the awards because they’re making a difference in people’s lives. He also encouraged them to keep going.

“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need a team that inspires us and holds us accountable.”

After all, we’re one voice, we’re one team.

Read more about One Voice, One Team.