From the stage of the May Street Auditorium, author, entrepreneur, and life coach Dianne Langford James ’03 told an auditorium full of high school students, “All things are possible. No matter what is happening in your life right now, you can change its trajectory. Every generation should be better than the last one.”
The way to do that, James said, lies in finding one’s passion and purpose in life. That was the message of James’s keynote speech at the National African American Read-In and 9th Annual ALANA Preview Day at Worcester State University on Feb. 8. The event, which Worcester State has participated in since 2014, welcomes local high school students to campus to learn about the university and hear from a motivational speaker.
James shared some of her life story, which demonstrated her message. As a girl, she said, “I knew nothing about college. We had no books in the house.” As an adult, she lost a decade of her life to alcohol abuse, she said, but she made her way out of addiction and now, 31 years sober, she has founded her own business and become an author, women’s life coach, and popular speaker. She also has six children, 21 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren and will celebrate her 71st birthday in October, a fact that brought gasps of surprise and applause from the youth in the audience.
James, who has made a career of helping teens and women transform their lives, urged the students to find their purpose in life. She asked the students to close their eyes and imagine: “If you had all the money and time you need, where would you be right now?” The students, who were engaged throughout the talk, were eager to share their answers, revealing dreams to live in cities around the world or in a quiet place with lots of vegetation.
James gave the students a four-step method of living a life with purpose. The students would know they were living their purpose, James said, when opportunities flow their way, when they feel fed by what they do, and when destructive cycles are broken.
Breaking such cycles is a large part of the work James does. It is also the focus of her book, Breaking Cycles and Building Your Legacy (FirmBeliever.Co, 2023). James read some selections from the book, including a letter from one of the grandchildren who inspired her to write the memoir. The letter thanked James for her strength and hard work.
James encouraged her audience to write a similar letter of thanks to three people in their lives. She ended her talk with several calls to action, including writing a letter to one’s future self, to have new experiences often, and to be of service.
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