Two Motivational Speakers Walk Into A Bar
Mark Lindquist is a motivational speaker, entertainer, world-class singer, and a very special human. He was also my guest on my podcast.
I was really looking forward to this podcast between two motivational speakers because I wanted to continue my series where I start asking deeper and more personal questions to my guests. And after all of the news splashed across the front page of the newspapers it seemed impossible not to further the conversation on race. Mark graciously agreed. He grew up in Minnesota… a state that’s currently in the news due to two very recent killings by police officers of young black men. But also I was interested in Marks perspective as an Asian American. We’ve been looking at recent Asian American he crimes and it was time for me to start asking some difficult questions.
An Asian American From Minnesota
As a middle aged straight white man I’m very hyper sensitive of the fact that it feels awkward to ask these questions about race. But also I’m convinced that the only way to move our country… And our planet… forward regarding race relationships is to start having more conversations. They can be deep and meaningful, they can be probing and painful, or they can be light and playful. But they need to happen. And Mark Lindquist was graciously willing to have this conversation in a public way.
Mark was born in Korea but was adopted at eight months to a nice family in Minnesota. I was totally surprised to hear that mostly his childhood was devoid of any racism. He talked openly about just being one of the boys in a very small town and that he felt welcome and safe with everybody. Race really wasn’t much of an issue.
But racism did rear its ugly head when Mark joined the Air Force. Basically he was a leader of other airmen and was shocked when he basically asked his team to salute the flag. One person defiantly did not comply. Mark overheard this person say something similar to “why should it matter to him? He wasn’t even born here”. They also compared him to give me the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.
But I was surprised because Mark told me that as bad as this bit of racism was, and as hard as it was for him, it was not normal. Mostly he felt the military was welcoming and warm as it was filled with people from literally all across the world and from every minority.
Mark hypothesized that one of the reasons racism has not been much of a problem for him is because at an early age he learned to both disarm people and to show them how kind and warm he is. He learned how to make jokes about things including his Asian background, and took responsibility for making people feel comfortable with him. What stood out to me is this responsibility which she has taken on and mastered would not have been so important if he was caucasian.
The Heart of the Interview
Then we came to the heart of the interview. Mark explained that he has really turned into a guy that is famous for singing the Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events. He’s been singing that song he loves at sporting events since his junior year in high school. He’s performed at high school, college, And professional sports venues. He sang for the professional basketball and for the national football league. It’s something that has brought him passion… It’s also something he’s very talented at.
In November 2020 he was invited to sing at a Monday night football game. This is a really big deal as the audience is ginormous and the exposure is huge. It’s a tremendous honor. He was absolutely looking forward to it.
But also November was a difficult month as the country was dealing with increased tension over race relations. George Floyd was killed by a police officer in the country was dealing with grief in sometimes very uncomfortable ways. Mark decided he couldn’t sit by and do nothing.
So he took the bold and in my opinion very brave choice of telling the national football league that he was unable to sing the anthem as usual. He said he could do it but only if they allowed him to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter… unsurprisingly they decided to find a replacement for Mark.
Making a Stand
It seemed very brave to me because Mark decided to stand up for something that he strongly believes in. He decided to make a stand – – sorry for the pun — in spite of the fact that he’d be giving up an honor he really loved and enjoyed. He knew that the league might never call him back again. And all of that was very scary. But he still declined to sing.
Then, on a day that he would have sang, he posted on Facebook the entire story and the reason behind him deciding not to do it. It was a beautiful and well written essay. It was not universally applauded though. That wasn’t a surprise – – not everybody is supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Again the whole thing is really impressive to me. So many people, myself included, are not very open about politics in our social media feeds. This is my job and I’ve been strategic about not alienating 50% of my audience. But for whatever reason, Mark was brave, gutsy, and decided to make a public stand. Call me impressed.
Motivational Speaker’s Career & Racism
I asked Mark if racism had affected his career as a public motivational speaker. Again I was surprised with his answer. He said more or less that he feels a little bit guilty about the fact that sometimes the fact that he is Asian American has made him more attractive as a motivational speaker to his clients. He told me that some clients are tired of what they call male pale and stale. (Note… I am at least one of those things. :-)
He explained that some of his clients feel like he is checking a few needed boxes for them. Many clients have not hired nearly enough Minority motivational speakers in the past and might be excited to hire him to try to get past that record. I’m not totally sure how I feel about this concept given the fact that I am
a white motivational speaker. But I think I’ll things considered I guess it’s about time.
In the end it was a fantastic conversation. Mark is a dynamic person no matter what he’s doing. If he’s singing in front of a band, honoring our country by singing the national anthem at a national football league event, or leading a corporate audience as a motivational keynote speaker, Mark Lindquist is the real deal.
He’s a guy that is truly authentic. He’s upbeat and positive in a realistic and meaningful way. He’s thoughtful and intelligent in a way that makes you realize he’s really smart. And he’s upbeat, funny, and totally charismatic in a way that makes you really love spending time with him.
Thanks Mark. It was a total pleasure. Can’t wait to have you back on the podcast.