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Venus Encourages Mary Baldwin College Crowd To Reach For Their Goals

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tennis phenomenon Venus Williams stood at the front of First Presbyterian Church on Tuesday before a full house.

The four-time Wimbledon winner and Olympic gold medalist was stylishly dressed in a crisp white shirt and new tan boots that added a few inches to her already tall 6-foot-2 inch frame.

"I've got my heels on today," she joked as she towered over the podium's microphone. "So I think that makes me about 6-4."

Williams' demeanor remained light throughout her speech as she interwove stories of her family life and career conversationally for the audience composed of mostly women, with a few dozen men peppered into the crowd.

Williams was the 11th speaker to visit Mary Baldwin through the Smyth Leadership Lecture Series, founded by Mary Baldwin College trustee H. Gordon Smyth and his wife Mary Beth Reed Smyth, a 1947 graduate of the college. The series was created to provide Mary Baldwin students and the community with access to inspirational female leaders.

Type rest of the post here"Eleven is a lucky number for me," said Williams. It is the name of her new clothing line, EleVen by Venus Williams, set to debut on Nov. 15 at Steve & Barry's. It is also a part of the name of a band she loved growing up: 311.

"I eventually grew out of that," she said, smiling.

J.K. Bailey was one of the men in the crowd. He had come to the lecture with his daughter who attends Mary Baldwin.

"With so many athletes today taking hits on their personal lives, it's good to see someone with a positive attitude," Bailey said.

Attitude, said Williams, is everything.

"In life you have to know that you're a winner," she said. "Take that with you — really nurture it and go for the win."

Williams spoke at length about her upbringing in Compton, Calif., and on the family dynamics she says shaped her into the woman she is today.

She recalled the daily practice sessions she and younger sister Serena would work through with their father, crediting the hard work she put in as a youth and the encouragement from her family for her success today.

"We worked very hard," she said. "It definitely is a lot of hard work and dedication to do what you want. It isn't easy."

Williams advised the young audience members of the crowd to make a list of goals and stick to them.

"If you don't have a plan, how do you know where you're going?" she asked. "It's important to identify your dreams and for after them. And once you see your dream is a reality — go for more."

Mary Baldwin alumna Courtney Martin Jackson sat with her daughter Madeline, 6, and friends April St. John and her daughter Dara, 6.

Dara held a tennis racket, zipped inside a case depicting Venus and Serena on the front. She also held a bunch of flowers she and Madeline planned to give to Williams after the lecture.

"I try to hit the ball hard and beat my mom," said Dara, who has been playing tennis for a year.

"She's very serious about this," said St. John.

St. John said the two of them love to watch the matches and that she brought her daughter to see the tennis star because she wanted Dara to see what determination and hard work can do, she said.

"It's about being able to dominate in a field where you're expected not to," she said.

Williams touched upon that very same concept in her speech. "It's important to live life on your own terms and not how someone sees you," she said.

"We all have the same heart and it all beats the same way."

Source - The News Leader

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