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Guest Interviews

Sam Haskell

Edited By NA

2062 08/09/09

As the world-wide head of television for the William Morris Agency, Sam Haskell (SH) is responsible for careers of entertainment legends like Bill Cosby, Ray Romano, Dolly Parton, Whoopi Goldberg, George Clooney, and Britain's Prince Edward. He put together television shows such as "The Cosby Show," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and "Lost." He has chronicled his journey from a childhood in Mississippi to life in Hollywood in his best selling memoir, "Promises I Made My Mother". Today, Sam is interviewed by Kathy Ireland (KI), a dear friend of this ministry.

KI: Thank you to Dr. Schuller and Mrs. Schuller for inviting us here to the beautiful Crystal Cathedral. We are graced today by a man of true greatness. He and his wife Mary Donnelly Haskell, an extremely talented women, are dear friends. They have two children, Sam the fourth and Mary Lane. They are an amazing family.

As the world-wide head of television for the William Morris Agency, Mr. Sam Haskell is responsible for careers of entertainment legends like Bill Cosby, Ray Romano, Dolly Parton, Whoopi Goldberg, George Clooney, and Britain's Prince Edward. He put together television shows that we all know and love like "The Bill Cosby show," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and "Lost."

Sam was raised in a Christian home in Amory Mississippi and he chronicles his journey from Mississippi to Hollywood and beyond in his best selling memoir, "Promises I Made My Mother". Promises is a best seller across our nation from the LA Times to CEO Reads, Dallas, Denver and Milwaukee, and it continues to be a bestseller everywhere. Please welcome with me, Sam Haskell.

SH: Thank you, Kathy.

KI: Thank you, Sam. Sam, USA Today acknowledges your book as a must have, a best seller for Mother's Day. I think it is a best book for every day. You've always lived honestly with integrity and with God's hope. Would you please tell us what inspired you to write this book?

SH: I was very fortunate, Kathy, to have been raised, as you said, in a Christian home in Mississippi. And I had a mother who thought I was really special and who thought that she needed to raise me and my brothers in the light of God's grace. So she taught us lessons that we have used through our entire lives. I lost her to cancer twenty-two years ago when I was only thirty-one years old, but every single day I've been inspired by her.

And when I speak of inspiration, I have to credit Dr. Schuller for having said something that inspired me some time ago when I was thinking about writing this book. He said "what great thing would you attempt to accomplish if you knew you would not fail?" I had to write this book to share the lessons of my mom and to share with America and beyond, simple lessons of hope, faith and love. Simple in their explanation but profound in their execution and what it has meant to my life.

KI: Well it's touched so many lives.

SH: Thank you.

KI: Would you please share the story of stone soup? I love that.

SH: I've been on this sixty city tour and this is city forty-eight, in case anyone is interested, and I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But I was in a bookstore in Tupelo Mississippi and I had a line out the door of people, friends and old college friends who wanted to come hear about the book.

But in the book I mentioned the story, Stone Soup, which is a story my mother taught me as a little boy about philanthropy. It's very simple; three revolutionary soldiers had come into a little village. They had no food. They set up a tripod with a kettle and they put a rock in the kettle and they started stirring water into the kettle. And one by one people came out of their homes and said what are you doing? And they said well we're making stone soup. It's very delicious. But there's nothing in there but a rock, they said. Well I have a little bit of corn, one woman said. I have a piece of chicken, I have a piece of beef. And one by one everyone put the best they had into that pot and they served up a stew that fed the entire town.

Well, that's how I believe in philanthropy, Kathy. I believe that if we all put the best of what we have into the pot while standing, as my mother said, in the light of God's grace, we can serve up a stew that will feed the world. And here's the P.S. to that: I called a week later, because I call every bookstore I go to, to see how they're doing after I've been there, and they said well it's great because we sold out of your book, but guess what: we also sold out of "Stone Soup".

KI: I love that. And it just demonstrates all things are possible with God.

SH: Exactly.

KI: That is amazing. And something else you say in your book. You say no one is a failure who has friends. We share a common best friend in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Well you're so candid in your book and I learned things about you, even knowing you all these years. And you've been successful in everything from entertainment to philanthropy and now this book. But please share us a little bit of the challenges, your middle school years.

SH: Well you know I think that kids today, especially those kids from eleven to fourteen, have a world that they are going to inherit that needs a lot of attention. And I think that kids in general need to feel that they have someone in their lives who thinks they're special. I was always lucky in that I had a mom who thought I was special, but by the time I was thirteen I had become very prideful and probably cocky. I mean I would look in the mirror every morning and go 'yes.' You know? And I really needed a comeuppance.

So I had planned to win the good citizenship award in the middle school and I had planned to win it since I was in the fifth grade. And everything that I did was trying to win that award. And my mother would say to me 'you can't be the good citizen in the eighth grade until you're the good citizen today.' So I'd dust erasers and wash chalkboards and I'd pick up the flags after flag football for the football coach and clean up the basketballs after basketball. I did everything I thought I should do. And I was also playing the piano at the time. And I was really quite good so my teacher would take me around to all these state piano festivals and I was winning them at age thirteen in high school festivals. So I was asked to close the all school festival at the same time I was asked to come work out as an eighth grader with the high school football team. I know it sounds like I wanted to do it all, but I did.

I was so certain that I could do everything perfectly that I showed up at the talent show after a really difficult football practice. And I'd remember my mother saying, 'honey don't you need to take your music?' And I went 'no mother, I don't need my music. I've played that piece a thousand times.' I walk out on the stage, hit the first chord, go completely blank, bang those keys like a spoiled brat, rush to the parking lot, throw myself on the hood of my mother's car and start to cry with my piano teacher saying "I told you football and piano don't mix! I told you!" And I'm going oh my gosh, I've got to go back in and apologize. What if this affects the good citizenship award?

Two weeks later, I had not won the award. I was devastated and as president of the student body of the middle school, I had to stand before the whole school. I was going to thank them for my award but when I found I didn't win the award, I remembered something my mother had taught me that she had learned from her Sunday school teacher when she was a little girl. And the words went something like this: "If I should win, let it be by the code with my faith and my honor held high, but if I should lose, let me stay by the road and cheer while the winner walks by." And I went straight to the teacher that I knew would tell me the truth, Mr. Mike Justice. He was my favorite teacher, reminded me of a super hero. I said "Mr. Justice why didn't I win my award?" And he said "Sam, you lost by one vote." I said "but why?" And he said "because you banged those piano keys at the talent show and two teachers thought it was inappropriate behavior."

And in that moment, Kathy, I knew that my teacher was right. This cocky kid who just assumed that he would do everything right, in one moment of indiscretion, lost everything he had planned. I lost the award but in that moment I gained my life and I started living a principled life that very day.

KI: That's powerful, powerful. It reminds me of Moses hitting the rock.

SH: Except I was hitting those piano keys!

KI: Finally, Sam, could you please tell us what impact has your mother's guidance had on your faith?

SH: Well my mom was the most incredible Christian woman. She was a beautiful woman whom God chose to take much sooner than we would have liked, but the impact that her lessons have had on me, Kathy, teaching me and my brothers to stand in the light of God's grace. That's what she always said to be real, to be peacemaker.

You know we learn in the book of Matthew, "blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." And my mother would say to me "be a peacemaker, Sam. Be the one who seeks understanding." We may not like what we see and hear on a daily basis but if we can understand it we can get through anything and I think that lesson of consistency and faith and seeking understanding is what's helped me the most.

KI: That's powerful. Thank you, Sam.

SH: Thank you, Kathy.

KI: Thank you so much for being here. Thank you.

SH: And thank you, Dr. Schuller.

Copyright Hour of Power 2009. This interview was conducted from the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral and aired on the Hour of Power Aug 9, 2009.

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