Interior Official has Sherman Indian High students in stitches and
on their feet.
- Drugs and alcohol, poverty and mediocre grades didn't keep David
W. Anderson from growing up to become the nation's highest-ranking
Indian official, he told Sherman Indian High School students Wednesday.
American Indian youths shouldn't let anything keep them from achieving
their dreams, he said in an exuberant speech more characteristic
of an inspirational speaker than of a bureaucrat.
of us Native Americans, we have to become the best that we can be,"
Anderson said. "God did not intend for us to be average."
Anderson, assistant Interior secretary for Indian affairs, brought
his tale of triumph to the Bureau of Indian Affairs-operated school
in hopes of inspiring the students to seek higher education, stay
away from drugs and alcohol and be proud of their heritage. Anderson
took his position just weeks ago and is spending time this week
in San Diego for a meeting with Indian school educators from around
said his own past battle with substance abuse nearly killed him
three times. He said he's convinced that he's still alive because
of the grace of God.
poverty was so great, Anderson said, that he once scavenged his
own car seats for quarters to survive. Speaking later to a U.S.
history class, he quipped that he "used to go down to Kentucky
Fried Chicken and lick other people's fingers."
eventually got a master's degree from Harvard University and opened
a national restaurant company called Famous Dave's of America. Today,
he's a multimillionaire, he said.
President Bush asked him to leave the business world to serve as
the assistant Interior secretary for Indian affairs, Anderson accepted.
He said he wanted to do his part to keep students in school and
to counter the high rates of unemployment, alcoholism and suicide
among Indian people.
on a sparse stage at Sherman Indian High School before more than
400 students, Anderson exhorted the teenagers never to give up their
dreams and to work to share their talents with their communities.
Twice, he insisted all the students stand and join him in chants,
including one that had students shouting, "I feel happy, I
feel healthy, I feel terrific," and punching their fists into
have an opportunity to make a difference," he said after his
speech. "How many people would have got those people up and
V. Miranda, a 16-year-old member of the Pala Band of Mission Indians
in northern San Diego County, was bubbling over with excitement
after Anderson's speech.
he messed up, he fell, he picked himself up," Heather said.
"He inspired me to work hard to focus my mind more on my education."
had thought she might go to Hawaii to study nursing or become a
singer after high school, but she was reconsidering that plan Wednesday.
she might go into American Indian politics and return home to help
her tribe, where she said her father is the vice chairman.
said she chose to leave her high school in Fallbrook a couple months
ago to come to the Sherman boarding school, attended by representatives
of more than 90 tribes from across the country.