One part preacher, one part cheerleader and one part mom, Lucille O’Neal served up words of inspiration to a packed room at the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Women in Business Luncheon Thursday.
O’Neal — better known as the mother of NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal — was keynote speaker at the chamber luncheon, held at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. In addition to her philanthropic work, she gives motivational speeches and writes about it. O’Neal’s book, “Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go,” was published by Thomas Nelson in 2010.
O’Neal talked about where she’d once been — a welfare mother in Newark, N.J. — where she went and how she got there.
“When I was growing up in Newark, I did not want to be tall,” she said, to a round of laughter. The truth was a bit darker.
“I had heard so many words that would crush me, so many words that would beat me down,” she said.
Later life and wealth from Shaquille’s pro-basketball career helped, but didn’t take away the depression.
“We were sitting up on the hill, but there ain’t no happiness there,” O’Neal told the audience there.
Her road up and out led to two college degrees, a bachelor’s degree from Bethune-Cookman University and a master’s from University of Phoenix. That led to her role as president of the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players Association, which supports the communities where their sons and daughters play with charitable and fund-raising work.
She gave the basketball mothers a motivational talk, too.
“You all need to leave home and go out in the community to bless somebody,” O’Neal said she told the mothers. “You got enough shoes (laughter). You got enough jewelry. You can’t wear but one thing at a time.”
She wrapped up her talk with encouragement for the roughly 250 women there: Don’t let your future go to waste. Dream big. Keep things simple. Listen to your body. And, of course, believe in yourself.
O’Neal summed up her life thusly: “Book sense with common sense makes perfect sense.”
After O’Neal’s speech, Riverdale mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon announced that Krystal Pate of Southern Crescent Personnel had been named 2012 Business Woman of the Year. Dr. Alvetta Peterman Thomas of Atlanta Technical College and Debbie Clark Walker of Blankenship & Walker Printing were runners-up.