Pepperdine Law School professor Bob Goff told a San Quentin audience that he never tells people he’s a lawyer because he doesn’t want to be viewed as a jerk.
The audience all laughed. Goff’s listeners included prisoners as well as Warden Ron Davis and Chief Deputy Warden Ron Bloomfield.
Goff, a popular motivational speaker, expounded on the theme “Love Does.”
“Focus on the guy you want to be,” Goff told the audience in the Protestant Chapel. “Let people know what your ambitions are.” He added, don’t fake, be real with the people close to you and “get vulnerable.”
Humorous and energetic, Goff delivered his words using comedy to hold everyone’s attention, making them laugh often. Some said they laughed to keep from crying.
Relating to much of the pain some inmates have experienced, Goff said his own parents never found the words to say “I love you.”
“I’m a reaction to my parents,” he said and explained that his relationship with his father had amounted to just two conversations.
“Love is sacrifice and commitment,” he insisted and asked the audience to repeat the statement: “If you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s the only thing that matters.”
He spoke about Jesus and other Biblical characters but not as part of a sermon. “If we’re going to be the people God wants us to be, it won’t always be with the strong hand,” he explained. “Reach out with your weak hand to a few people.”
He advised the audience to find a person or two and to confide in them and to “break down the invisible fences.”
Goff said he teaches the subject of failure. To do this, he visits jails and prisons in other countries. Regardless of their crimes, he said, people see who inmates are turning into and that they’re not the same people they were years ago.
To introduce the audience to the subject of redemption, Goff welcomed his friend Miles Adcox to the stage. Adcox discussed his own rehabilitation and described being in a “nut house” at a low point in his life. He said he took a lot of risks. “I was really calculating.”
Regarding his own addiction, “I turned my mess into a message,” said Adcox. “For years we’ve been asking the wrong questions.” He said there are underlying reasons people become addicts and that we need to open our eyes and focus, because no one escapes trauma. “Life doesn’t stop. Adversity will continue.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time with people who’ve preached to me and a lot of time with people who’ve walked like Jesus,” said Adcox.
“The longest journey we take as men is the journey to get 18 inches,” noted Adcox, describing the distance from the head to heart. Along his journey, he said he discovered empathy.
Today, Adcox has one of the top rehabilitation programs in the world and has visited some of the most dangerous countries in the world, including Mogadishu, Somalia, a place where according to him, the United Nations advises a person should move every seven minutes to avoid becoming a target.
He compared San Quentin to Mogadishu and said he walked into the prison not knowing what to expect. He said initially he was scared.
“I’ve never felt safer any place in my life,” Adcox declared. He thinks people need to know that about San Quentin. “The paradigm is shifting in our culture,” he said, noting the men at San Quentin are more plugged in than people looking at their mobile devices (phones) on the outside.
He assured the audience, “We can be off balance but be in balance,” and told them it was “an honor to be here tonight.” Afterward, he received a standing ovation.
Goff returned to the stage expressing his hope that men will learn to whisper to their heart and say “It’s time to rest,” and ask God to “recenter me.”
At the end of the event the men, staff and guests in the pews lowered their heads and, shoulder to shoulder, listened as Goff prayed. “Love does,” was the message, borrowing from the saying, “Love your neighbor.”
To contact Goff’s organization, go to www. lovedoes.org