'Famous Amos' says don't hold on to the past
February 26, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The man who built his name on chocolate chip cookies and self-help books told an audience of Soldiers and senior Army leaders that living in the present is much more important than dwelling on the past.
Although acknowledging the historical injustices perpetrated upon those of African American descent, Wallace "Wally" Amos Jr., who first rose to national prominence in the 1970s with his "Famous Amos" cookies, still championed the idea of moving beyond the bitterness of slavery and oppression.
Failure to do so, he added, "will only eat you up inside."
"Personally, I think holding on to a lot of the things that happened is a detriment," said Amos, who served in the U.S. Air Force in the mid-1950s. "We can't live in the past. What's important is right now, because this is the only time there is."
Amos made his comments to more than 100 servicemen and women, Tuesday, here at the Nehelani, during an observance of Black History Month. Titled "The History of Black Economic Empowerment," the observance was sponsored by the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
In delivering his talk, Amos warned those in attendance that he stopped preparing speeches long ago. Instead, he has come to rely on a greater power whenever asked to address groups of people.
"I have faith in God that he'll tell me what I have to say. So, if you like what I say, don't give me any credit. And if you don't, well, don't blame me. I'm just the messenger," said Amos, 73, as the audience erupted in laughter.
Dealing with racism has never been easy, he said. After joining the William Morris Agency in the early 1960s as its first black talent agent, Amos said the job was only offered because "I was in the right place at the right time, and I was the right color."
Still, he wouldn't allow the prevailing attitudes of the day to get the best of him. Even years later, after he took a friend's advice and opened a cookie store in Los Angeles, Amos - still clinging on to the old saying, "All the water in the world can't hurt you, unless it gets inside" - refused to react to racial stereotypes.
"When I started selling cookies in 1975, I knew there would be some people who would not eat my cookies because I was black, and I thought, that's their loss," said Amos, who has authored or co-authored 13 books, including "Watermelon Magic" and "The Power in You."
What's important, he went on to say, is that people remain positive, and that they begin looking at the interior makeup of others rather than the color of their skin.
"So much of life takes place on the exterior," he said. "But what really matters is the heart."
As for being black, "It's just my pigmentation," said Amos, whose most recent venture is Chip & Cookie, a gourmet brand business with retail stores in Waikiki and Kailua. "I don't have a black heart. I don't have a black brain. I don't have black lungs.
"If we could ever get our arms wrapped around those truths ... we'd see that we're all the same; we'd see that we're all constructed in the same way."
Amos also paid tribute to the servicemen and women in attendance, calling it an honor to be in the presence of those who "literally put their lives on the line every day" serving their country.
Choking back tears, he said, "Because of you and your comrades, America is still the best. What you do really does matter. God bless you."
In closing, Col. Walter Piatt, commander, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, presented Amos with several parting gifts and commended the businessman and author for his words of wisdom during a time when the nation recognizes and honors African American history.
"You have reminded us all today that we are much more alike than we are different," Piatt said.A-"A?