I usually run the other way when I hear the words “motivational speaker.” Some speakers have good things to say, but others tarnish the image of all by being too hokey and/or self-promotional.
Take the opening speaker at the 1994 National Federation of Press Women Conference in Las Vegas — please, as the old joke goes. He ran from the back of the room to the stage, smiling and waving all the way. It got worse.
He said we should commit to achieving big goals. His goal was to climb the highest mountain on every continent. He’d finished three or four.
Sitting in front of me was Hubber Mary Jane Skala, then Ohio Press Women president. She turned around and said something like, “Well, if I was making lots of money wasting people’s time like this, I could afford to go climb mountains, too.”
I was intrigued and also skeptical when “motivational speaker” Justin Osmond was introduced as the opening speaker at last month’s 2013 NFPW Conference in Salt Lake City.
He mostly talked about his famous family — his dad, Merrill, is the third oldest of the singing Osmond Brothers — and the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund he established in 2010 in honor of his grandmother.
Many people don’t know that Virl and Tom, the two oldest of the eight Osmond brothers (Marie is the only girl) were born with a “deaf gene.” Justin is the only second-generation Osmond to have the same 90 percent hearing loss.
With a large family on a small farm, Olive and George Osmond could not afford hearing aids for their two hearing-impaired boys. So to raise money, they taught their next four sons to be a barbershop quartet that performed at fairs and other community events.
Justin said the first attempt for a wider audience failed because Lawrence Welk didn’t need another act at that time.
Disappointed, the family went to Disneyland and stopped at a pavilion featuring barbershop music. Seeing four boys dressed alike, a performer asked if they could sing. They did, Walt Disney was there and the rest is entertainment history.
Justin’s musical parents treated him like their other kids. He took piano and violin lessons. Before playing “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” at the NFPW Conference, he said he keeps in rhythm by feeling the violin’s vibrations under his chin.
His calling to provide hearing aids to poor people around the world started when, as a Boy Scout, he decided to raise money for a friend who needed new hearing aids. “It changed his life and it changed mine,” Justin said.
He has written a book about his life, “Hearing With My Heart.”
Justin’s presentation was a mix of stories about his family and his mission, motivational sayings and humor. He knows he is a mirror image of his uncle Donny. So when people come up to him at airports and other public places to say, “You look just like Donny,” he replies, “Donny who?”
The “good cry” part of the program was a video of mostly children, reacting when Justin and his uncles Virl and Tom activated new hearing aids. In the background was an Osmond voice — Merrill, perhaps — singing a song about “when we bring music to your ears.
You can see the video and learn more about the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund at http://www.oliveosmond.org.
Lori Potter is a Hub staff writer.