I have been privy to a lot of amazing speeches in my day. Speeches from great leaders and orators like Barack Obama and The Dalai Lama. Speeches from history on which our great nation was built, such as Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech or Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I have heard inspiring speeches from people in my community during my work in advocacy and with people who have suffered from and overcome mental illness and substance abuse. I have seen attorneys and their accused clients plead for their freedom in county courtrooms with amazing persuasive skills and have listened intently to touching stories of both victimization and change. But recently I saw a Ted Talk from few years back given by Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll, entitled, “How I Learned to Read, and Trade Stocks In Prison.” And it really stuck with me for so many reasons.
Caroll was incarcerated for murder at age 20. He was uneducated, illiterate, and looking at a sentence of 55 years in California’s most notorious prison, San Quentin. During his time in prison though, he not only taught himself to read but also how to trade stocks. Carroll’s philosophy is that most crime is attributed to a lack of financial security, which ultimately led him to teach fellow prisoners about the stock market through the creation of F.E.E.L (Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy, a financial literacy program he started with a fellow inmate. Caroll’s story stood out to me because I have also been to prison and now, like him, feel the heavy pull in my life to fight for criminal justice reform and the rights of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Like Caroll, I believe many people get into trouble with the law due to a lack of financial literacy and I believe we are failing our citizens by not teaching them the power of simple financial principles like compounding interest, stock market basics, and budgeting. I’m also a sucker for a story of change and inspiration and though it may be strange to some, I find Carroll, who is still incarcerated by the way, to be an inspiration to myself and many others.
Carroll, Curtis “Wall Street”. “Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll | Speaker | TED”. www.ted.com.