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Author and former inmate Ron James travels from Pennsylvania to Warm Springs to talk about choices.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Motivational speaker Ron James, at left, meets with Delson Suppah and Sarah Frank at KWSO in Warm Springs.
Motivational speaker Ron James traveled from Pennsylvania to Warm Springs, to speak into the lives of Warm Springs community members and Deer Ridge Correctional Institution inmates June 10-11.

"We may wear different clothes, go to different jobs, and live in different cities, but we all have one thing in common: choices," said James.

After spending more than 25-plus years in and out of prison, James knows the power of choices to build up and tear down.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - James, who visited with the Warm Springs Tribal Council, is flanked by Tribal Council members Raymond Tsumpti and Valerie Switzler.
"'Whose choice is it?' is the question James asks throughout each of his presentations," said Sarah Frank, prevention coordinator and recovery mentor for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. "His drug addiction brought him to a place of homelessness and stealing from the only person that supported him — his mother."

Good better best

May you never rest

Until the good get better

And the better best ...

(James' mom, Miriam James)

Six years ago, James was released from incarceration and has since become a motivational speaker and writer, who has had a motion picture made about his life story.

"Three hours after arriving in Oregon, James was standing in front of eight tribal inmates, giving them a message of hope through their own better choices," said Frank.

He later spoke to seven more male inmates and the next day to 13 female inmates. That was his first time speaking on an Indian reservation.

"Personally, knowing the life of addiction and incarceration, James knew what he was talking about," said Frank, who collected comments from tribal jail inmates:

"I didn't just listen, but I heard your words. Thank you."

"Made me think about change in my life. I know that it's going to be hard, but I know that I will get there one day; I just gotta take the first step."

"Wish we had this kind all the time for youth and adults."

"Don't give up on families with addiction and show them that every day."

"Give them courage, guidance, strength, confidence ... even if it's just words."

"The guest speaker was a good choice!"

"It was good; I would like to watch the movie at the next movie night."

"We want more stuff like today."

"Was a good class on choices. More presentations like this one on real life situations."

"I love it and from now on, I'm going to make better choices, be there for my kids."

"This was a good class."

"Bring more inspirational people."

"Today's class was pretty exciting."

"Always ask for 40 block (our cell)."

"More motivational speakers, more classes. Don't give up on anyone."

On Sunday night, June 10, James traveled to Deer Ridge Correctional Institution, where he spoke to more than 70 inmates.

Afterward, the inmate chaplain, Scott Patterson, thanked them for "the amazing evening" with James. "Not only was it a good turnout, but the talk of the men has been very encouraging and inspirational. They were moved by his story and given yet another glimpse of hope for their futures."

DRCI inmate Michael Kendrick, commented, "Choices! It's easy to get into trouble, and next to impossible to get out of. Ron James is an amazing example of how it's never too late to become the change we want to see in our community. His obvious strength of character and ability to overcome addiction and trauma is an inspiration and his story has the ability to help both men, women, boys and girls!"

"Whether you've already made a mess in life or if we're getting involved before the mess occurs," he wrote,"Mr. James' message is not just a Band-Aid, it's a cure!"

The evening of June 11, James spoke to 80 community members at the social hall.

"This was very uplifting," said Judge Lisa Lomas. "I am so glad I was able to attend! I love his positive attitude and outlook on life. It gives hope to all people fighting the battle of alcohol/drugs and also sends the message that the choices you make in life are all up to you. It is good to have faith in God to help you overcome the hardships we face in life."

A tribal elder commented, "I wish all my grandchildren heard his message."

In less than 36 hours, James spoke in to the lives of more than 188 people.

How did James find his way to Warm Springs? "I came across the 'Choices' movie ad on Facebook. I wanted to know when the 'Choices' movie was going to be released, so I called the phone number listed. James returned my call. After hearing what we do at the tribal jail and DRCI, he wanted to travel to Warm Springs," said Frank, who then began seeking donations to get James to Warm Springs.

"After a month, I was giving up, as I had little response. But James was adamant that he was coming to Warm Springs," she said.

Living Hope Christian Center and Warm Springs Power Enterprises both made financial donations, as did community member Danielle Wood, who contributed from her own personal funds.

Other contributors included the Meth and Opiate Work Group, which provided the meal for the community event; Brent and Lindsey Wright, who opened up their home to give James a place to stay during his visit to Warm Springs; and the Warm Springs Housing Board, which paid for two of his meals. Many volunteered their time to make the event possible.

"We appreciate all the support," said Frank, adding a special thank you to the Warm Springs Police Department and Deer Ridge Correctional Institution for allowing them into their facilities.

"Make your next choice your best choice," said Frank.

If you would like to learn more about Ron James, see yourchoicefoundation.org or www.ronljames.com.

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