My good friend Charlie Paparelli, an angel investor, told me he wanted to meet Andy Young.

I arranged the meeting and I must say that I have been inspired by the lessons learned from Charlie after spending time with a very wonderful, influential and accomplished leader, Rev. Andy Young, former Mayor of the great City of Atlanta and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

With permission from Charlie Paparelli, here are his posts about his visit and the dates of each post. #LeadershipLessons, yvonnebryantjohnson@gmail.com

Download the PDF of this article

Lessons in Leadership with a World Class Leader
–March 19, 2019

Recently I was given an incredible gift. I had the opportunity to spend four hours with Andrew Young. His list of accomplishments is long. To list only a few, he was a pastor, a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement, a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Also, he was the Atlanta mayor instrumental in bringing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta.

During our afternoon conversation, he talked and I listened. I learned so much about life and leadership. In this series of posts, I will share what I learned from this man of God. He is a great leader who has made history multiple times.

This series contains lessons learned from the wisdom Andrew Young shared with me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did my conversation with this amazing man.

I was at a community leadership awards ceremony several months back.

Andrew Young received a lifetime achievement award for his work as a leader. I knew a little bit about him but not much. I knew he was part of the civil rights movement, was an ambassador to the United Nations, and had served as the mayor of Atlanta.

I also remembered us being together on a flight from Paris to Atlanta in 1986. He was one seat behind me for over ten hours, and I had not said one word to him. But when I heard him speak while accepting his lifetime achievement award, I wanted to meet him.

I wanted time with him.

The last time this feeling came over me was at the first High Tech Prayer Breakfast I attended in 1993. I knew I needed to meet with Bill Leonard. That meeting changed my life forever. A short time after meeting Bill, I surrendered to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

When Andrew Young was announced as the recipient of the award, he got up from the table at the foot of the stage. He raised his eighty-seven-year-old frame very slowly and had someone help him up the two steps. He rocked side to side as he walked toward the podium which was only six feet away from the steps. He knew it would give him support, thus providing much needed relief.

He started by thanking everyone for this great honor. Then said, “You know, I was confused in college. I really didn’t know where I was headed or what I was supposed to do. But I looked around me and saw God created everything in this world with a purpose. That’s when I realized He must have a purpose for me, too.

“I graduated with a divinity degree.

“My father was disappointed that I didn’t become a dentist like him. I knew I didn’t want to be a dentist, but what should I be? I didn’t know. Everyone who graduated with me wanted to go to New York City. That’s where it was all happening at the time. I went to pastor a small church of twenty-five people in Marion, Alabama. They were the only people who wanted me.”

He talked for a few more minutes about his life and how it unfolded. In those few minutes, I really came to respect this great man. It was clear to me he was a man of God.

He trusted God with his next step at every stage of his life. He knew God had a purpose for him and was open to whatever God had in mind. He never came across as a man of great ambition but rather a man who was called into leadership at just the right place and time.

I sized him up as a reluctant leader.

This might sound unfair, but he appeared never to be chasing position or power. It was always thrust upon him, I would say, by God. And to his credit, he always stepped into it.

But when it was over, whether civil rights leader, ambassador to the UN, or mayor of Atlanta, he moved on to whatever God had as his next purpose. Because of these thoughts, I wanted to meet Andrew Young.

I was at a lunch with my good friend Yvonne Bryant Johnson.

Yvonne asked me to join her and another lady she thought I might be able to help. The other woman was the leader of a women’s ministry which developed leaders in the African-American business community.

For whatever reason, I found myself telling this story about Andrew Young. I ended the story with, “I would really like to meet him and just talk. You know. Get to know him.”

Yvonne said, “You want to meet Andy? I know him. I’ll set it up.”

“Why would he meet with me?” I asked.

She said, “You are a leader in our community, and he will want to meet you.”

“Set it up, and I’ll be there,” I said.

She set the meeting. I was to meet Andrew Young at his office right after a doctor consult for my prostate cancer. I thought the doctor’s appointment would take thirty minutes. It took almost three hours. I stood Andrew Young up. But we eventually did meet. It was a 2 pm appointment on a Monday in late February 2019.

I thought he would spend thirty minutes with me.

I had no agenda. But I met him while on my current journey of discovering my next purpose. So this was on my mind. We visited for four and a half hours. I couldn’t believe he gave me this much time. I didn’t talk. He did. I listened.

My next series of articles will outline what I learned from this great man. I never had a meeting like this. I was talking to a man who lived a life I only saw on TV and read in magazines and newspapers. He lived the history I watched and read about.

As I reflected on our conversation, I realized how much I learned.

I learned lessons on how to live my life in relationship with God, the discipline of old age, the value of free thinking young leaders in a community, trusting God with your life, philanthropy when you have nothing to spare, career, leadership, community service, and life purpose at each stage of my life.

I’m looking forward to sharing Andrew Young’s stories with you. I think they’ll impact your life as they did mine.
Stay tuned!




Andrew Young on How the World Is Changed
– March 22, 2019

It was Sunday evening, and I had just finished watching the Arnold Palmer Invitational on TV. I was struck by the age of the men in contention. The average age was 27. Francesco Molinari, an old Italian of 36, won it with an astounding performance of 8 under par on the final day.

This got me thinking about something Andrew Young said. He made an observation on the power of getting young people together to share ideas. I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Andrew said, “It is wonderful to get young people together for the sole purpose of free thinking. This is what happened with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Smart, young people with ideas and money. They changed the world as we knew it.

“We were smart and young in the late 1950s, but we had no money. The youth of today have resources. We need to make every effort to bring these people together to share their ideas with each other. Great ideas will emerge, and so will many great leaders. Our world as we know it will once again change.”

Then he told the story of Gardner Taylor.

He said, “Gardner was the Billy Graham of the black community back then.

“Every year after Christmas, he would bring together all the great African-American pastors in the United States. This included a young pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr. They would meet in Jamaica for two weeks.

“They would talk, pray, and play golf. When they returned from this getaway, they would have a year’s worth of sermons. Sermons on social issues and faith. These sermon topics were intended to change the world.”

I experienced this a couple of weeks ago.

Henry Kaestner, Managing Partner of Sovereign’s Venture Capital, coined the phrase Faith Driven Entrepreneurs. He and his partners, Luke Rouch and Jake Thompson, came to Atlanta as part of raising money for their new VC fund.

It will be focused on funding faith-based companies with community impact and dramatic growth potential. In addition to pitching investors, they had the idea of bringing together men and women who lead their companies with their faith in Jesus Christ as their foundation.

They asked me as the leader of the High Tech Prayer Breakfast if I would partner with them on this meeting. In addition, they asked David Theil of C12 Groups and Chad Merrill of Fellowship of Companies for Christ International to partner with them on this meeting. The meeting was a Tuesday night affair held at the New Realm Brewing Company on the Beltline.

I was blown away when I arrived. There were close to two hundred smart, young, faith-driven leaders. They are making a difference for Christ every day in their companies, but they also feel like they are out there all alone while on this mission. This meeting announcement brought them together to talk and share ideas.

They realized they were not alone.

It was an amazing meeting because of the quality of people who attended. And there was an incredible connection in that they are all CEOs and founders who are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Henry Kaestner, a former High Tech Prayer Breakfast keynote speaker, shared some thoughts on how he operates his business. He told stories on how he operated Bandwidth.com, which grew to a $1B company. He shared with all of us their core values and how they stuck to them. Click here to see his presentation.

A couple of days later, I was talking to my nephew who lives in Tampa, Florida. He is a faith-based leader in his company. He said he found out from a friend on Facebook that this meeting was taking place in Atlanta. He told me, “I wanted to fly in to attend. It sounded so interesting.”

“Why would you consider coming? That’s an awfully long way to come for a two hour meeting at a brewery.”

He said, “I just wanted to meet the people who attended and share ideas. I know it would have been very encouraging for me.”

Andrew Young is right. We need more gatherings of great, young leaders where they can share their ideas in all areas of our community.

These are the people who will change our world. Who knows what ideas will be shared. But the result will be great new companies and high-impact social initiatives. And these organizations will result in a better life for all of us.





Andrew Young on How to Accomplish Greatness
– March 26, 2019

I had a meeting today with Darin George (not his real name). Darin is an entrepreneur who has built a successful FinTech company over the last 12 years. He called to run a few ideas past me and get some advice.

“I’m launching a new business inside my business,” he said.

I confessed I didn’t know the FinTech market very well, but I do know startups and how to break into new markets with new products. I think I helped.

As our meeting was ending, he said, “This meeting was very helpful to me. I haven’t really asked for help with my business in the past. Based on this meeting, I now know I should have asked for help.”

I get it.

“It surprises me how many people do not ask for help,” I told him. “And I completely understand because I am one of those people. But all the great leaders, the truly great leaders, always ask for help from others. They know what they know and what they don’t know.

“God made us with different skills, and we all have different experiences and perspectives. We need to open up and share. When we work together, great things happens.”

I told the entrepreneur this story.

Recently I was with Andrew Young. He is one of those great leaders I was talking about.

Andrew Young told me, “I read a book back in the late 1970s about how a nation’s wealth is created by cities. I believed it. It made sense to me. I looked at Atlanta and saw so much possibility. When I combined my new belief on wealth creation with my international experience, I had a new dream. I wanted to make Atlanta an international city of peace. So I ran for mayor.

“I won,” he said. “And you know the first thing I did?” I just looked at him with anticipation.

“I held a luncheon and invited 85 of the top CEOs in Atlanta. They all came,” he said.

Then he sat back in his chair.

As he did, he touched the tips of his fingers together and continued.

“I went up on stage and welcomed them to the new Atlanta, to this dream I had of making Atlanta into an international city of peace. A city which would offer everyone, of every race and every gender, the opportunity to build great wealth.”

He leaned forward and looked me right in the eye and said, “I then told them, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing. This is the reason for this lunch. I need your help to achieve this dream. Will you help me?’”

He gave these men and women his office number and home phone number. “If you have any ideas on how to build our city or people I should meet who may want to do business here, call me. If a CEO comes to Atlanta who is thinking about establishing a presence here, they will need no appointment. Tell them to come to the mayor’s office at any time, and I will drop whatever I am doing and meet with them right then and there.”

He closed with, “Atlanta is open for business.”

Great leaders ask for help.

Here is a citation from the Wikipedia webpage on Andrew Young’s accomplishments as mayor.

As mayor of Atlanta, he brought in $70 billion of new private investment.[17] He continued and expanded Jackson’s programs for including minority and female-owned businesses in all city contracts. The Mayor’s Task Force on Education established the Dream Jamboree College Fair that tripled the college scholarships given to Atlanta public school graduates. In 1985, he was involved in renovating the Atlanta Zoo, which was renamed Zoo Atlanta.[18] Young was re-elected as mayor in 1985 with more than 80% of the vote. Atlanta hosted the 1988 Democratic National Convention during Young’s tenure. He was prohibited by term limits from running for a third term. During his tenure, he talked about how he was “glad to be mayor of this city, where once the mayor had me thrown in jail.”[19] – Wikipedia

Amazing accomplishments. All because he was wise and humble enough to ask for help.





Andrew Young on Discovering Your Purpose
– March 29, 2019

At the end of our four hour meeting, Andrew Young said, “I don’t know why I met with you. I don’t know why I was supposed to talk the whole time and you were supposed to listen. But maybe the reason for this meeting was for me to discover my next purpose in life.”

When he said this, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I came to this meeting hoping he could help me discover my next purpose. I wanted to sit at the feet of the man who had purpose dropped in his lap many times during his lifetime.

Here is his purpose history…

Purpose #1

Not knowing where to go with his newly earned divinity degree, he was approached by a small church in Marion, Alabama. They wanted him to lead the twenty-five person congregation. Within a short time, he was asked to pastor another twenty-five person congregation in the same area. Finally, he had enough money to live on.

He was then asked to come to Dahlonega College and participate on a panel. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also asked to be on that same panel. When Andrew told me this story he said, “To this day, I believe I was asked to be on that panel because they didn’t believe Martin would actually show up.” But that’s how he met MLK, Jr.

Purpose #2

This led him to the purpose of the Southern Leadership Conference. He joined MLK as a leader in the civil rights movement. They were focused on getting African Americans in the southern states the right to vote. He walked the Selma Bridge and was shoulder to shoulder with MLK right up to the day of his assassination.

Shortly after MLK’s death he said to himself, “I have been living my life for Martin’s dream. Now it is time for me to live for my dream.”

But he wasn’t sure he had a dream. He said, “Many of the leadership supporters of the civil rights movement and the SLC wanted one of us to step into leadership. But we were all afraid we would get killed.”

He was talking to Harry Belafonte, the famous singer and big supporter of the movement, who told him, “We are going to do a big fundraising concert in Atlanta. We will have all my friends from Hollywood, New York, and Las Vegas.”

“Who is the beneficiary of this fundraiser?” asked Andrew.

“Me? Why do I need money?” asked Andrew.

“You,” Belefonte answered.

“You are entering the congressional race here in Georgia.”

Purpose #3

And that’s how he became a congressman. He did lose the first time he ran in 1970 but won his seat in the 1972 election. He was re-elected in 1974 and in 1976.

Purpose #4

President Jimmy Carter asked him to be the ambassador for the United States at the United Nations. He said, “I didn’t know anything about being an ambassador. But Jimmy thought my civil rights background would help in opening up better relations with Africa. I found out later, he was right.”

Purpose #5

After serving as ambassador, he was asked by Atlanta leaders to run for mayor of Atlanta. He did and won. He told me, “I just knew in my heart Atlanta could be an international city of peace with a strong economy.”

This vision came from a book which had a profound impact on him as a community leader. The book was Cities and the Wealth of Nations. He said, “The message of this book hit me hard. I believed what the author said. Strong and vibrant cities create great nations.”

He served as Atlanta’s mayor for two consecutive terms. He brought $70 billion of new private investment to Atlanta. He left this purpose in 1989. While reflecting on his time as mayor, he said to me, “The only way to get something done in a city is to be a true volunteer.”

He ran for governor of Georgia and lost. He never said anything about this in our conversation. But in doing a little digging, I found this in his Wikipedia page.

“Young campaigned hard but by the primary, with no central message, his campaign ran into trouble against the well-heeled and prepared lieutenant governor. Many think he failed in his effort by trying to garner support amongst rural, conservative white voters, rather than turning out his urban and African-American base. Also, Young never found an issue that roused supporters, unlike Miller, who won voters by championing a state lottery. Miller won the runoff, 2 to 1 and ended Young’s gubernatorial aspirations for good.”Wikipedia

Lacking a “central message” tells me being governor was not his next purpose. In every other call to a new purpose, he was uniquely equipped from his experience or his vision for what could be.

Purpose #6

He got involved with Atlanta’s bid for the 1996 Olympics. He said, “Atlanta was a unique city for the Olympics. We had no natural barriers for venues. We could host venues in all four directions from the city.” He told me he expected $1 billion in revenue if they won the bid. When the 1996 Olympic Games were completed, they realized $2.5 billion. “It was an amazing boost for Atlanta and all who participated.”

In the midst of his stories on the Olympic bid, win, and operations, he said, “When I met Billy Payne, I thought he was a prophet from God.” That’s how much Andrew loved Atlanta and admired great leaders.

So there I was thinking, What about my next purpose?

After writing about Andrew Young’s changing purpose at each stage of his life, who am I to ask this question? My next purpose will come, no doubt. God uses all who are available to Him.





Andrew Young on How to Discover God’s Will
– April 2, 2019

Andrew Young said, “These men who sat on the Board of Directors of my dad’s college approached me. They asked me to support the school. I told them I would be happy to contribute. I was thinking a thousand, maybe two.”

“They said, ‘We would like you to contribute $50,000.’

“I was taken aback. I explained to them as mayor of Atlanta I was making $50,000 per year. There really was no way I could afford to help them at that lofty financial level. I could not even imaging pledging $50,000 and paying it over a three year period. I had a family to support.”

Andrew went home that night and told his wife what happened.

She told him, “You cannot say no to these men. This is the college responsible for educating your dad and my dad. Look at the impact this institution had on you and me and our families’ lives. You cannot tell them no. You just can’t.”

Andrew said to me, “I didn’t argue with her, and I didn’t call those men back and say yes. I just thought and prayed about it.”

Then the rest of the story began to unfold.

“I was walking through Atlanta airport and was stopped by a man who asked, ‘Are you Andrew Young?’

“‘Yes,’ I said.

“The man replied, ‘I am with Thomas Nelson Publishers. We would like to work with you on writing a book about your civil rights experience from more of a spiritual rather than historical perspective.’

“I said, ‘I just finished a book on the civil rights movement. I don’t really have the time for this right now.’ And then I just walked away without giving this man another thought.

“A couple of weeks later, my agent called me out of the blue. He said, ‘I see you are going to write another book.’

“I said, ‘I have no plans for another book.’

“‘Yes you do,’ he responded. ‘I am holding in my hand a check made out to you for $50,000. It is an advance on a new book from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Looks to me like you are writing another book.’”

Andrew told me, “When I heard the check was for $50,000, I knew right then and there two things. One, I was supposed to write this book. And two, I was to sign the check over as a contribution to those men from my dad’s college.

“Every morning for four months, I got up at 4:30 AM to pray and write.”

Those writings were published as A Way Out of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs of Andrew Young.

“My wife was right. She knew. I was not to tell those men no under any circumstance. She knew it wouldn’t be right to say no to them. She also, like me, had no idea how we could make a $50,000 commitment to their institution.”

He honored his wife and didn’t say, “No.”

I was amazed at this story and how he trusted and honored his wife. I was also amazed at the values and deep faith his wife demonstrated. She knew what was right and believed God would show them a way.  And He did.


Andrew Young on the Secret to Growing Old
– April 16, 2019

“There is a discipline to getting old,” said Andrew Young.

This 87-year-old statesman was sitting right in front of me, talking about growing old. I have asked many people who are older than I what advice they have as I approach my late sixties.

Some said, “Just keep going.

Others said, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

One said, “Keep doing the Lord’s work until you just can’t do it anymore.”

Another said, “Do the things you always wanted to do while you still can.”

The majority were speechless.

But Andrew Young didn’t even need to be asked. It was on his mind in our meeting, and he shared the following with me.

“I just came back from two weeks at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami. They had me eating all kinds of healthy food. It was tough to get used to early in my visit, but as the days passed, I really started feeling better. I learned a lot about health and diet there. I want to continue to live by these new principles,” he explained.

“You know what I learned?” he asked. “I learned leaders should go somewhere once a year where they focus on nothing but their health. It is important.”

Then he talked about Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

“I was always amazed how Jimmy and Rosalynn stayed so fit. They are the same weight they were when they graduated high school. Can you imagine that?

“When I was ambassador to the United Nations, Jimmy invited me to eat lunch at the White House. We talked for a while and then lunch was served. It consisted of half a tuna sandwich with a slice of pineapple on a lettuce green and an unsweetened iced tea. That’s how Jimmy Carter ate all the time. He is 95 years old today. He had both knees replaced at 90 and beat brain cancer at 94.”

These stories really hit home for me.

Last month I turned 66. These two men are two and three decades older than I am. I’ve been sitting around thinking, I’m old. This meeting with Andrew Young and the stories he told schooled me. I realized I need to adjust my thinking and my priorities.

  • First, it is important for me to stop talking old or I’ll start living old. My friend Pastor Elijah of Uganda always takes me to task if I talk like this. He says, “You are not old. You have reached the age of wisdom, and you need to share this wisdom with our nation. Maybe when you get to 80, then you’ll be old.” Even that’s not true for Andrew Young nor for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.
  • Second, I need to be available for God’s next purpose in my life. He has a big plan, and I am just a small part of it. I can elect to step back and not participate, or I can be attentive and step into the unknown and do the job he has for me to do. I was told by a wise friend, “You can be sure God will use everything you experienced in life and all you accomplished in life for His glory.”

As I listened to Andrew talk about his health priorities, I thought, But he doesn’t have prostate cancer.

Then he said without me saying a word about cancer, “After my second term as mayor of Atlanta, a large Atlanta law firm offered me a free office. There were hundreds of lawyers in that firm. It was about that time I found out I had prostate cancer. In talking to the other lawyers, it seemed that every one of the lawyers over 60 had prostate cancer, too. I treated it. It wasn’t that bad. And here I am today at 87.”

After our talk, something in my perspective changed. There is a discipline to getting old.




Andrew Young on MLK and Making a Difference
– April 19, 2019

“Martin believed we all needed to come to Jesus in order to receive the Spirit of God. After that, we will be led by the Spirit of God.” Andrew Young was speaking about Martin Luther King, Jr.

He went on, “Martin was very intense.

He believed he was not going to live a long life. Because of this, he worked 14 to 16 hours a day. He didn’t waste a minute of time. He told me more than once while we were working together, ‘If I can make it to 40, I can make it to 100.’ He was shot and killed at age 39 while on the balcony of a small Memphis motel.

“I remember the day he was killed. He was in a very light-hearted mood. This mood was very uncharacteristic of him. Little did I know that was the last time I would see him alive as I looked up at him standing on the balcony above me.

“A short time later, I heard what I thought were firecrackers going off. I came back out and looked up at the balcony and saw Martin’s foot sticking out through the railing. It didn’t have a shoe.

“I ran up to his room and then out to the balcony.

“There he lay in a pool of blood, dead. But he looked more at peace as he lay there than any other time I ever saw him.”

MLK was a man who shaped Andrew Young’s life. Before they worked together in the civil rights movement, they both read and were impacted by the lifework of Mahatma Ghandi. Social change through peaceful demonstration. They both believed in it but didn’t know what to do with this principle. By working together, they influenced each other.

They grew together as leaders.

MLK took the lead. He integrated Ghandi’s message with the teachings of Jesus Christ. He stepped into the breach and stepped out of the pulpit. He began to live the messages he preached. He used the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the principles demonstrated by Ghandi to change a nation. This put him and all his followers in harm’s way. He paid the highest price for equality for all men and peace among all men.

I was attracted to Andrew Young while sitting in a large audience watching him accept a lifetime leadership award. He only talked for five minutes, but in those five minutes, I heard the words of a great leader. A leader who is authentically humble and sold out for Jesus Christ.

He said, “When I graduated from college, I was confused. I didn’t want to be a dentist like my father, but I wasn’t sure what I should do. As I looked around, I realized God made everything, and he made it with a unique purpose. It was then I realized God made me with a purpose. I no longer belonged to my mother and father. I belonged to God.”

This realization set the course of his life.

He was filled with God’s Spirit and decided right there and then to follow the Spirit. MLK was right. The Spirit will lead you. Look where it led this great man. He changed a city, a nation, and the world.

One thing he said that I’ll never forget:

“People of influence who are in the same place want to be at peace with each other and work together for a better society. This is true if we see the ‘same place’ as the world, a nation, a city, or a neighborhood. We need to make Atlanta the international City of Peace. How we get along as brothers and sisters is of utmost importance; otherwise we will perish together as fools.” – Andrew Young

This statement sums up his life’s work and his purpose. This makes me ask, “What statement sums up your life’s work and purpose?”