Kenyon Flying Solo: Does His Individualistic Approach to Life Appeal to Cape Henry’s Students?


A man who aimed high for his goals, climbed higher with aid from a ladder on stage, and ascended even higher by showing us videos of him skydiving over Mile High Stadium in Denver, walked onto our stage claiming to be the “James Bond of motivational speaking” with flying colors last Monday. Kenyon is an inspirational speaker, visiting numerous schools in the 757 area, and planted the ideas of individualism and confidence in the minds of our student body to later sprout into actions and lifestyles as we grow older. Our students were excited to have another speaker after having a dry spell of speakers, or the more well-known name, “reasons to not have class,” for such a long period of time; which sounds like a spoiled thing to say because it is. The energy which he brought and that which followed him was present throughout his entire speech and through every activity, we participated in. Be it beating our chests to a beat orchestrated by Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio or dancing in a line from left to right on ten second intervals to some Dutch EDM song, the crowd was always involved, and Kenyon’s energy varied based on when he needed more or less enthusiasm; then the overall message was always hovering in the back of your mind: go complete your dreams, finish your bucket list, live your life the way you want to before you don’t have the time to do it.

With all of this energy and motivation, it would appear to be the perfect storm for a speaker and his audience to connect. Of course some things may go wrong because not every motivational speaker is perfect, but for the most part, the message and meaning should be received somewhat positively by his audience. However, the tides of this storm would not favor Kenyon in the way he intended; a major rule of public speaking and conversation is to know your audience, and I have reason to believe that Kenyon failed to do so in said aspect of his presentation.

In no way was his performance bad, or his message negative; Kenyon is a kind-hearted individual who seeks to inspire the younger and older adults alike, but that is where the problems began. His presentation wasn’t geared towards the youth, the ones who aren’t financially stable and who have little to no means of traveling or maintaining a somewhat stable financial platform. Frequently he talked about his voyage from New Hampshire to Boulder, Colorado to pursue his dream of snowboarding professionally, which he did reach eventually, but not many high school students are able to go and become a professional athlete or travel to Europe, much less drive to Norfolk without their parents in the seat next to them or even behind the wheel themselves. Junior Brady Old stated, “I thought it was cool, it was a good message. I think he’s a genuinely good guy, but I’m not gonna drive to Spain by myself in the next year, I don’t think that’s physically possible anyway.” He later added, “Yeah I don’t have the money to fly either, much less live there.” Another student, 8th grader George Sullivan, remarked, “He was really inspiring.” George, a member of Cape Henry’s Varsity Swim and Crew teams, mentioned how he’s unsure of what he wants to do in life yet, so completing his bucket list would be “impossible” but “a good message to keep in the back of my mind.” “I liked his message, but it was the wrong people to give it to,” Junior Sarah Blais answered. “Noone is going to do any of this in the next year, it’s too much to ask from teens.”

To recap on all of this, Kenyon’s performance was not perceived in the best light by our students at Cape Henry, but he did receive a nice consolation prize in everyone’s hearts. Many teenagers like to imagine being their own person and going out to face the world on their own terms, but reality eventually does kick in and many of these aspirations are kicked out. Of course, like Kenyon’s message, these dreams and ideas are stored away in the far corners of our minds, buried in doubt and reality, and even though Kenyon may have attempted to unearth these dreams, these wishes, the narrow mind of a teenager isn’t always going to listen to some guy sitting on a ladder. Maybe it works on adults and the elderly, I mean it has to or else Kenyon wouldn’t be a professional public speaker, but it crosses a clear line between cool and weird that apparently only teens are able to view and adults perceive as obscured. At least he tried to appeal to the students; he didn’t try to lecture us and forgo all ethos, and he wasn’t extremely overzealous like some speakers and other adults who seek to understand teens only to wind up embarrassing themselves. It’s a textbook case of misunderstanding one’s audience; either that or he couldn’t be bothered to change it for us, which I doubt seeing as he truly does seem to want to help motivate people. He also seems to be making lots of money for giving these speeches so it could all just be an act, but we’ll never know, we will only remember the humming, the ladder, the motivation, and the misunderstanding.