Motivational Speaker’s Tribute To Lancaster, SC

A Message For Lancaster, SC – From Kelly Swanson

As a motivational speaker, I get the privilege of meeting my fellow Americans all over the United States – from coast to coast – from corn fields to city centers. I meet them in their places of brokenness and celebration. I hear their stories, I hug their necks, and I form instant connections with strangers that I may never see again – but who I will never forget.  I consider it my job, even my calling, to go spread encouragement, humor, and hope – and to lift spirits in every place that I can. And recently I got the joy of visiting Lancaster, SC, to speak for a Healthy Woman Event for Springs Memorial Hospital. And as timing would have it, I caught them on an “off” day.

I was informed the week of the event that spirits were down due to a story done on Lancaster that portrayed them in a negative light. I saw the story. And it was obvious that this reporter (a stranger) had gone into the town with the story already written – had chosen only examples that backed up the story – and cast out to the world a story about a town that could be further from the truth. Or should I say, did not contain the whole truth?

So this message is for you, Lancaster, SC. This is what I wanted to say when I was there, but couldn’t find the words.  This is what the reporter left out – the rest of the story.  And so while it may be late, I hope that you will take this message of love and encouragement from the wacky motivational speaker who visited your town.

Here is what I experienced when I went to Lancaster, SC:

  • A grace-filled spirit…I was invited to your town with warmth and respect.  You didn’t act like I should be honored to come there – you acted honored to have me as your guest. So before I even stepped foot on your soil, I saw the way you treat people – the way you treat strangers, no matter what our religion, color, political preference, or status in life.  I felt the love.
  • A servant’s heart…I came directly from another speaking event, with no time to stop for even a bathroom break on the way. I arrived after the event had already started, dragging heavy boxes, feeling frazzled, and limping because my feet already hurt. I didn’t even make it to the front door before people were offering to help, grabbing my things, opening the door for me. You didn’t know who I was – you just stepped up to serve. Because that’s what you do. You serve. No matter who I am.
  • Happy people…I was engulfed in a sea of happy people – networking, eating together, sharing gifts and talents – in an atmosphere charged with energy – an energy that immediately gave me a shot of adrenaline. It was immediately obvious that you love each other, that you value each other, and that you enjoy life with a contagious passion. Because that’s who you are.
  • Sharp dressers…Why is it that some people assume that because you live in small town you’re addicted to floral print dresses? (Not that there’s anything wrong with floral.) Being a girly girl, I notice hair and makeup and jewelry and a kicking pair of shoes. So while it may seem petty to even bring it up (I didn’t claim to be a saint) – you were some of the best dressed women (and men) I have ever seen.  You should have graced the cover of a magazine – not only for your outside beauty, but for the beauty on the inside.  So don’t let anybody say you are behind the times. I would actually say you are above the times – with a beauty that transgresses the fashion of the day.
  • You were professional…Not just as a choice, but it is obviously ingrained in you. You take pride in your work and your accomplishments. I teach people to be confident in their businesses. You embody that which I teach.
  • You are joyful… You love to laugh. You obviously know that life is short, and you value the day. You choose happiness – even in the face of hardship. Because we all know that happiness is not something we wait for, but something we choose.
  • Pride in each other…You were proud of your town and of each other. I could see it by the way you looked at each other. When one achieves, you all achieve. It is a beautiful example of unity.
  • You aren’t quitters… I could tell by the jut of your chin and the way that you walk, that you don’t give up.  Just like the granite upon which your county is built – you have a solid foundation and a history of persistence.

Notice that I did not say one thing about your buildings, your companies, or how much money your town makes –  because to me, those aren’t reflections of your town. YOU are the reflection of your town. Towns, organizations, communities – are made up of people, built around people. Not the ones on statues and tombstones – but the ones who sit in the local diner, who ride in the parade, who heal and who teach, who sit in the classrooms and the church pews, and who sit at dining room tables staring at the empty seat of their soldier who is out serving this country and protecting the freedom of all – even those who would turn right around and judge them. People make the difference. And last time I checked, no one hung an “out of business” sign on you. (And, by the way, I pity the fool who tries to hang that sign on the women of Mane Street Hair Designs in Lancaster, SC.  You will not come out alive – though you will come out with good hair.)

So that’s what I saw when I came to Lancaster, SC. And while your heart may be heavy, and your pride may be wounded – may I share these thoughts to encourage you, and help you get back on your feet again.

  1. Perhaps there could be a hidden blessing in all of this. For maybe it has forced you to examine who you really are. Maybe it was just the thing you needed to regroup and refuel the pride and passion for who you are and where you live. And maybe, just maybe, you will come out of this even stronger having experienced this. For it’s never the obstacle that truly takes us down – but what we choose to do with it. Take it, and make it a good thing.
  2. And even more important – let us not forget that nobody can take our spirit unless we let them. It’s simply not theirs to take. And never will be. A spirit is something YOU possess – you choose – you create. It’s not that others kill our spirit – it’s that we choose to let them.
  3. And, lastly, nobody writes your story but you. What I found in Lancaster, SC, was actually no surprise to me.  Because I learned a long time ago the toxic result of forming stereotypes about people based on the color of their skin, where they live, what they do for a living, or what they believe in. I learned better. I learned not to write someone’s story for them. We live in a day where we claim tolerance, equality, and freedom. Yet if any of you is sitting in your home summing up someone you have never met – or a group of people – because of what they believe, or you think they believe – because of where they live – or what they have or don’t have  – or how much they know – then shame on you. For some who preach tolerance are actually the most guilty.

So there’s my story on Lancaster, SC. Here’s what I couldn’t find the words to say while I was there.  May you receive it with the love and grace it was intended. But then let it go. Because that’s just my story – not yours. You are not who I say you are. And you are not who “they” say you are. You are who YOU say you are. So pick up the pen and write the next chapter.

Your wacky motivational speaker who believes in you,

Kelly Swanson



Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson's website

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  1. Wow Kelly – I want to go to Lancaster! This is such a great article, is there a way it could be published in their local newspaper?  And, how about sending a copy to the author of the biting article that you referenced.   By the way, those eight things you saw in Lancaster are things we should all aspire to bring to our businesses and customers.  Bravo my friend!

  2. I agree with Marilyn. This should be front-page news. Love your “out of business”sign comment. Brilliant. Lancaster is blessed to have motivational speaker Kelly in the house.

  3. I agree with Marilyn and Colette!  I hope you’re at least informing the meeting planner in Lancaster about this blog.  Such a great message!!

  4. Thanks ladies! Turns out the article is being passed around Lancaster and will be printed in the newspaper. And I am so happy that the words of encouragement will land on the ears of those who need to hear it most. And the whole experience affirms for me that I have chosen the right profession – or rather the right profession chose me! For me, being a motivational speaker (one who encourages and motivates people) is not just a means to a paycheck. It is my calling. And I will find a way to do it, whether it pays or not, whether it’s for a thousand people or one. Someone said recently (in an online discussion) that the day of the motivational speaker is over – that it has no value. And it broke my heart. To think that we would ever reach a day or a place where motivating, encouraging, and empowering people becomes trivial. I still believe it is the most important factor – far above giving them the tools and the knowledge to do it. For the motivational speaker gives them the courage to apply the information they have received. 

    • I am so glad that your article is getting around Lancaster.  What a gift you have given them, Kelly – the gift of a powerful perspective.  And yes, as motivational speakers, that really is our job isn’t it?  Ms. Kelly, you really do open yourself up to channel a very empowering, potentially life-changing message.  On behalf of every person who EVER gets the gift of you (and as YOU so aptly have put it many times):  “Wow! God sure does some pretty cool things through Kelly Swanson!!”

  5. Bravo Kelly! You are truly an exemplar of who and what it takes to be a Motivational Speaker in 2012.  

  6. Thanks Paul! But don’t give me too much credit. Sometimes it’s just a matter of hearing the call and answering.

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