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You Can't Go Wrong Doing Right: How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World

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An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an impressive array of the famous and powerful, including every American president since John F. Kennedy. But as a child born into poverty in the 1930s, Robert was raised by his grandmother to think differently about success. For example, "The best way to influence others is to be helpful," she told him. And, "You can't go wrong by doing right." Fueled by these lessons on humble, principled service, Brown went on to play a pivotal, mostly unseen role alongside the great and the powerful of our time: trailing the mob in 1950s Harlem with a young Robert F. Kennedy; helping the white corporate leadership at Woolworth integrate their lunch counters; channeling money from American businesses to the Civil Rights movement; accompanying Coretta Scott King, at her request, to Memphis the day after her husband had been shot; advising Richard Nixon on how to support black entrepreneurship; becoming the only person allowed to visit Nelson Mandela in Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town. Full of unbelievable moments and reminders that the path to influence runs through a life of generosity, YOU CAN'T GO WRONG DOING RIGHT blends a heartwarming, historically fascinating account with memorable lessons that will speak to the dreamer in all of us.


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An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an impressive array of the famous and powerful, including every American president since John F. Kennedy. But as a child born into poverty in the 1930s, Robert was raised by his grandmother to think differently about success. For example, "The best way to influence others is to be helpful," she told him. And, "You can't go wrong by doing right." Fueled by these lessons on humble, principled service, Brown went on to play a pivotal, mostly unseen role alongside the great and the powerful of our time: trailing the mob in 1950s Harlem with a young Robert F. Kennedy; helping the white corporate leadership at Woolworth integrate their lunch counters; channeling money from American businesses to the Civil Rights movement; accompanying Coretta Scott King, at her request, to Memphis the day after her husband had been shot; advising Richard Nixon on how to support black entrepreneurship; becoming the only person allowed to visit Nelson Mandela in Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town. Full of unbelievable moments and reminders that the path to influence runs through a life of generosity, YOU CAN'T GO WRONG DOING RIGHT blends a heartwarming, historically fascinating account with memorable lessons that will speak to the dreamer in all of us.

30 review for You Can't Go Wrong Doing Right: How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    My first thought reading this book was, "Why have I never heard of this man?"  My second was, "This is like real-life Forrest Gump."  The man popped up at many of the major events of the 20th century in two countries. When I finished I had to take a minute to review how this had happened. He was born in poverty in the south but was able to get an education over time. He took the police test for research but ended up scoring really high.  He became one of the first black officers in his area. My first thought reading this book was, "Why have I never heard of this man?"  My second was, "This is like real-life Forrest Gump."  The man popped up at many of the major events of the 20th century in two countries. When I finished I had to take a minute to review how this had happened. He was born in poverty in the south but was able to get an education over time. He took the police test for research but ended up scoring really high.  He became one of the first black officers in his area. He started doing undercover drug work which led to him getting hired by the FBI to do that kind of work in New York City. That got dicey so he quit to go back to North Carolina to start a public relations firm.  That was rough going. When students were protesting in Woolworth's because of segregation at the lunch counters, he went to Woolworth's and told them that he could negotiate a settlement. He became a fixer for companies that had racial issues. This led to him meeting and getting to know all the big civil rights leaders in the 1960s and helping them with corporate funding from the clients he had. He decided getting stuff done from the inside was more effective so he went to work for the Republicans in the Nixon White House to increase business funding to black people. Along the way he hired Stedman Graham who introduced him to his girlfriend Oprah Winfrey who was getting into television. He paid for the Mandela children to come to the U.S. for college. He ended up talking to the President of South Africa about whether or not to release Nelson Mandela. I probably forgot some stuff in the middle.  It was a wild ride. It was interesting perspective to read about.  At many points he was considered to be working for "the wrong side" by the black community.  He worked for companies being protested against.  He worked for Republicans.  But he was able to work behind the scenes to potentially make more actual progress that he might have been able to in more traditional civil right roles. This is a long video but you can listen for a bit to hear him tell his story.This review was originally posted on Based On A True Story

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Sampson

    Very unlikely hero. A young black man born into poverty in 1935 in North Carolina, who touched the lives of power brokers here in the United States and in South Africa. He gave advice to Woolworth's during their lunch counter boycotts, he worked for Martin Luther King in Alabama, he worked for Richard Nixon during his first term working to provide funds for minority businesses (and refused to get dirty during his time in Washington!), and he did work in South Africa with Nelson Mandela. During Very unlikely hero. A young black man born into poverty in 1935 in North Carolina, who touched the lives of power brokers here in the United States and in South Africa. He gave advice to Woolworth's during their lunch counter boycotts, he worked for Martin Luther King in Alabama, he worked for Richard Nixon during his first term working to provide funds for minority businesses (and refused to get dirty during his time in Washington!), and he did work in South Africa with Nelson Mandela. During all of this, he shows a tremendous faith in God, and never forgets the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee. God was his strength, and he called upon God when he needed the help to overcome his anger at the indignities he faced while trying to do right. I am reading this book for a second time, as my church book club is getting ready to discuss it this week. One of the best books I have read in a long time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek Kumar

    Touched and inspired by this book. Great 1st person account of soneone who shaped workd events but you probably never heard of him. Incredible read about civil rights era. Set plans do not work. Have some basic principles and march on in life. The book somehow also reminds of famous FG quote- "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what youre gonna get." Sections where he helped organizations navigated difficult racial situations based on his upbringing and good principles make for Touched and inspired by this book. Great 1st person account of soneone who shaped workd events but you probably never heard of him. Incredible read about civil rights era. Set plans do not work. Have some basic principles and march on in life. The book somehow also reminds of famous FG quote- "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get." Sections where he helped organizations navigated difficult racial situations based on his upbringing and good principles make for excellent read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Bates

    This book really brings the Civil Rights movement to life. I was raised in Southern California, and all of those stories of Freedom Riders or people who dared to sit at the "whites only" counter seemed very distant. I recently relocated to North Carolina and have relatives in High Point, so reading the story of Robert Brown, who was raised there, made a huge impact on me. (I'm making plans to visit the old Woolworth's Diner turned Museum in Greensboro soon to see more of this history for This book really brings the Civil Rights movement to life. I was raised in Southern California, and all of those stories of Freedom Riders or people who dared to sit at the "whites only" counter seemed very distant. I recently relocated to North Carolina and have relatives in High Point, so reading the story of Robert Brown, who was raised there, made a huge impact on me. (I'm making plans to visit the old Woolworth's Diner turned Museum in Greensboro soon to see more of this history for myself.) His story is worth reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sheryl Sorrentino

    What an inspiring and uplifting memoirall the more so because the author is probably not someone you've ever heard of. For those of us who still feel awestruck by the unwavering effort and personal sacrifice of 1960s Civil Rights leaders and protesters, this book offers an insider's view from someone who worked tirelessly behind the scenes and avoided the limelight. Many of the passages and stories will bring you to tears. Mr. Brown deserves congratulations for his laudable life's work. What an inspiring and uplifting memoir—all the more so because the author is probably not someone you've ever heard of. For those of us who still feel awestruck by the unwavering effort and personal sacrifice of 1960s Civil Rights leaders and protesters, this book offers an insider's view from someone who worked tirelessly behind the scenes and avoided the limelight. Many of the passages and stories will bring you to tears. Mr. Brown deserves congratulations for his laudable life's work.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adele

    What a remarkable man! I've finished reading this book during the rioting and looting in towns across America while wondering what Robert Brown's counsel would be to the current Administration. I don't have words right now to say how this book has touched or perhaps even changed me. I am surely glad I have read it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Janice Stone

    A must read . This book should be on the book list of churches , schools , and discussion groups . For those seeking motivation to help in this world there are words of wisdom , and hope for a better world .

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Loved it. I stumbled across it randomly at the library. It was a delightful surprise to read the story of this man who rose above so much. His character shown through it all. And he thanks God and his grandmother. Heart warming!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chloé Olsen

    An insightful read into the civil rights era and the incredible work of one behind-the-scenes man. Roberts perspective is sage and refreshing. I loved the message of this memoir.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Hoping they craft a young readers edition of this book - should be mandated reading for all!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Alva

    Loved learning and reading about this man. What a great example and leader.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carolina Castillo

    Amazing story!! Listened to the Audiobook.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Wonderful memoir by Robert Brown who I had never heard of before.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert Rush

    The remarkable life story of one of my mentors. A remarkable first-person account of a man whose shaped world events whom youve probably never heard of. You will be touched and inspired. The remarkable life story of one of my mentors. A remarkable first-person account of a man whose shaped world events whom you’ve probably never heard of. You will be touched and inspired.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline White

  16. 5 out of 5

    Darin Newberry

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe Wood

  18. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Miklos

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lakshmi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Rianda

  22. 5 out of 5

    melanie godwin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian Cody

  25. 4 out of 5

    E

  26. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marco Espinal

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nina Gregson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen Nelson

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