Lou Radja announces the Swahili greeting wherever he goes in his deep booming voice and broad smile. It’s almost impossible not to smile back.
Radja, 39, grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, and, like his parents, attended college in the United States. The gift of education changed his family tree, and his life’s purpose is to return the favor.
“It’s essential for our own survival to take care of one another. There’s nothing special about it,” he said, “except human beings giving everyone an opportunity to dance.”
One of his favorite sayings from his vast collection, is “when you take the elevator to the top; always send it back down for someone else.”
Nearly 50 years ago, missionaries gave his father a chance to go to college, not because he was smarter than everyone else, Radja said, but because he was lucky.
“That’s when you realize that everyone has this organic brilliance but not everyone has the opportunity to showcase it,” he said. “That motivates me even more to give others the same opportunity.”
“I already know they are brilliant,” he said, “all they need is a dance floor.”
Radja founded EduCongo, a U.S. based nonprofit organization that helps more than 2,000 underprivileged children in the Congo get a quality education. It’s his way of sending the elevator back down for someone else.
Radja is also a motivational speaker who draws on his experience growing up in Congo and his education in the United States to inspire people to be more and give more. Radja will share his talk “Africa, my roots. America, my wings” at TEDxSalem Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Salem Convention Center.
To hear Radja’s talk and listen to other TEDxSalem speakers, get your tickets here.
A few of Radja’s favorite quotes:
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”
“Twenty Years From Now You Will Be More Disappointed By The Things You Didn’t Do Than By The Ones You Did Do…Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Attributed to Mark Twain