The power of saying “yes”

Kayla Trail

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

The power of saying ‘yes’ is something Kevin Lampe is a firm believer in and thinks that students can benefit from saying ‘yes’ more often.

 The executive vice president of the business that he shares with his wife, Kurth Lampe addressed students Wednesday in Sallee Hall on how
important it is to take a chance in life, and to have students understand the power of saying ‘yes.’

 On Kurth Lampe’s website, it describes the company as “a Chicago-based strategic communications firm with an international reach with Chicago know how.”

 A Western Illinois University alum, Lampe graduated from Western and received his degree in mass communications in 1983.

 “At Western, what I learned here was so important to me,” Lampe said. “I learned so many things inside the classroom and outside of the classroom, I spent a lot of time in my communication studies studying theories, studying persuasion, nonverbal persuasion. Then I learned a lot more outside of the classroom, I participated a lot in the university Union board, activists, then I also got out and spent (time) working on WIUM and WIUS.”

 Working with WIUM, and WIUS, Lampe gained what he called “real world experience” and discovering what he wanted to do with his future.

 “There I learned that I was never going to be a journalist,” Lampe said. “I was always going to be an advocate, that I was going to work in a background where I had to go out and advocate for my clients.”

 Lampe then shared with Eun Go’s public relations strategy campaign class the list of jobs he has held since graduating Western, three of which he was fired from.

 “What is interesting about my path, I came out of college and worked in radio sales in Tennessee when I first got out,” Lampe said. “I decided to come back, I was homesick. I came back north and got a job at an event management company that’s run by the alums of Western as well. After a year or so there, I got fired, I was devastated. This is my dream job, my career’s just started and I’ve already been fired, I’m not even 25 yet. But I realize I’ve got to start making money.”

 Going from working at a nightclub, being a DJ, being a photography assistant, working in advertising, Lampe then found a six-year gig that would help him understand the ingredients to making a good public speaker, being a stand up comedian.

 Lampe then got a job bartending and after finding his comfort zone there, four years passed and he was still at the same job. Enjoying bartending and believing it was going well, Lampe made a minor mistake one night and his boss fired him but not for the typical reason.

 “(My boss) fired me in such a way that was so interesting,” Lampe said. “He said a slap in the back and a kick in the ass are only six inches apart. He says ‘Your mistake wasn’t that big, but you know you’re wasting your life. I own a bar and I’m content and I enjoy that, but you’re better, you should get involved in politics on a professional level. Since you’re in this comfort zone bartending, that is never going to happen, so you’re going to stay fired.’”

 His boss offered him two weeks of what he would have made in bartending sales until he was able to find a job, five days later, Lamp found himself as a campaign manager.

 “I ran that campaign, and it was a little bit more than I could chew,” Lampe said. “But I took a chance, I said yes. I took a risk and I did a good job, we won. The last two weeks someone had to come in and help, but I learned a lot.”

 Lampe and his wife have worked closely on the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, and through their way of working on it
and helping out Paul Rusesabagina, at one point there was a hit put on him and his wife.

 “Paul came to us a few years ago after the success of the movie,” Lampe said. “He was giving out school fees and scholarships but not really affecting change and doing the things he wanted to accomplish in his home country of Rwanda. So we created a strategy where we wanted to talk about the truth and reconciliation commission for the Great Lakes region of Africa.

 “We also knew we had to put pressure on the current president. If we could get the countries to eliminate the military aides for Rwanda, Paul Kagame would be forced to be a defender of human rights and not an abuser. Now this has come to the point where we did such a good job, and then Paul (Kagame) two summers ago at a speech said, ‘There’s a firm in Chicago and they must be broken’ which means killed. So Paul calls for my wife and I to be assassinated, which is great. But as I’m sure you are learning now, public relations is a difficult thing to measure in success. It is hard to put a matrix, a value, on what you get, but when your opponent wants you dead, you have a victory. You have reached your public relations goal.”

 In high school, Lampe had a term paper he was writing on popular Chicago columnist, Mike Royko. Royko indirectly taught Lampe a few things in regards to journalism and reporting that Lampe holds close to him in his career.

 Lampe called and was able to get into direct contact with Royko to set up an interview, what Lampe did not realize is that he happened to call Royko on deadline, unprepared.

 “It taught me a number of things,” Lampe said. “One, be prepared for whoever you are going to talk to. Two, you can get a hold of anybody that you want to, I never thought I would get connected to Royko. Three, understand the life of a reporter, understand when their deadline is going to be, be conscious of the reporter, the media outlet that you are pitching to, that they understand that you understand their job. These things came incredibly important, that is what Royko taught me. It is all about who you know.”

 Since high school, Lampe has had numerous opportunities, all because he said ‘yes.’ He met President Barack Obama in 1995, and in 2004 when Obama was needing help on improving his speech-giving abilities, he called Lampe up to help him with his key note address.

 “It is about taking opportunities when they are presented to you,” Lampe said. “Taking chances and doing things beyond your own comfort zone. It is important that you want to believe in yourself and take the chance, and when something bad happens know that is going to be okay. I got fired three times, each time I got fired it turned out to be a better situation.”

 Lampe said that finding what you are passionate about is a huge key to happiness and success in life and that to never get discouraged when you get a door slammed in your face.

 “Find your passion first, then pursue it,” Lampe said. “Find what you are passionate about and follow it, that is where you are going to find success. Know that you are going to get punched in the face, but you’ll be okay. You may cry, you may have too much to drink one night, but it is going to happen. It happens to the best of us.”