Find A Tree

Find A Tree Painting

PROGRAM

The pursuit of our dreams is about embracing possibilities and choosing to accomplish more in our lives. Whether personal or professional, when we set goals and begin on the path towards reaching them, we're truly forging our own growth.

Find A Tree is an empowerment program dedicated to fostering a world of dreamers and doers, who believe that they are the architects of their own success. The program engages both youth and adults alike, helping them to identify their aspirations, recognize their potential, and actualize their life goals.

The program's approach is grounded on six fundamental pillars to promote individual achievement: ambition, understanding, belief, action, resilience, and urgency.

Developed by renowned motivational speaker and dream coach, Daniel Armstrong, Find A Tree's origins are rooted to an inspiring story about community development in Ghana, Africa. It was there that Armstrong encountered two brothers who had what seemed like an unrealistic dream to launch their own school. While the boys found themselves discouraged by immense challenges and limited resources, Daniel encouraged them to "find a tree, and start their school there." That prompt led the young men on a journey that quickly captivated an entire community and garnered the support of a local businessman, who donated a building for their school. Within a year a hundred local youth were in attendance, the boys' dream had come true, and Daniel found his life calling—to mentor people across the world in accomplishing their goals and realizing their dreams.

To date, the program has helped to empower business professionals and educators throughout the United States, along with thousands of students across the country. Find A Tree is about having a purpose, building strength, and living proactively — to optimize your life and positively impact the world around you.

The possibilities are endless...you just need to find a tree and get started!

Find A Tree Universe

VISION

George Bernard Shaw once said, "You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'"—That is the Find A Tree way of thinking.

Our mission is to improve the lives of program participants while positively impacting the greater communities in which we work. By motivating youth and adults alike to dream big and act now, we're committed to helping bring goals to fruition. We believe that inspiration, empowerment, and positive thinking can foster forward progress within the American school system, as well as inside businesses of all types.

For our youth—we want to be the catalyst for improved grades, higher graduation rates, great commitment to community service, and the pursuit of higher education.

For our educators—we want to deliver a systematic formula for motivating students that will complement their efforts within the classroom and help them to strengthen the values and work ethic of the pupils they teach.

For our professionals—we want to reinvigorate organizational cultures, refine team-building initiatives, and maximize operational efficiency to positively impact businesses everywhere.

We believe that the work that we do with individuals will have an exponential impact on the greater good of the world. Find A Tree is our tree, and we're just getting started on our dream of helping you to make your dreams come true.

Imagine a world where everyone finds his or her tree.

Barack Obama The Story David Maraniss

PRESS/MEDIA

"The gathering in Altschul Hall offers another opportunity to freeze a moment, compare Obama to a contemporary, see how uneven his path was, and appreciate what a vast and unlikely journey still lay ahead, physically and mentally. Only six months earlier, he had stood in the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center Plaza at Occidental and delivered the first political speech of his life, a critique of Oxy's investments in firms that did business with South Africa. That day in the California sun had stirred something inside him; he realized that he could move a crowd with his words, and yet he came away from it with mixed feelings, the doubter in him believing that student protests were mostly for show, even if the cause was just. He had arrived in New York with a sense of mission that had overtaken him during his final months at Oxy, yet he was still repressing any inclinations toward traditional political engagement, still looking for an opening through his own cynicism. He was not able to live in the moment; life seemed too scripted, with people playing their parts. He was still the Moviegoer.

And here in that same audience at Altschul Hall sat Danny Armstrong, the black student who could not remember seeing Obama at BSO meetings but did have the one image of him loping across campus. Armstrong was a sophomore that fall, a year behind Obama. He had entered Columbia in 1980, arriving from Compton, California, recruited to play basketball. His public identity up to that point had been on the court, as a small forward or shooting guard, yet he was already interested in politics. One of the first things Armstrong did when he arrived in New York was to volunteer at the 1980 Democratic National Convention held at Madison Square Garden. At his freshman dorm he was known to burst into spontaneous renditions of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which he seemed to have memorized. But it was that night at Altschul Hall, watching a movie on apartheid and listening to Ndaba, the South African speaker, which changed him forever, showing him what he would later call "a path of light." After the movie he volunteered to pass out fliers for a rally at the law school; soon after that he got the BSO involved in the anti-apartheid movement, and within a few months he was the main speaker at an anti-apartheid rally on campus. As he remembered it, the administration was still shell-shocked from the 1968 protests, and his rally was to be staged on the same day that alumni would be in town. It had to be moved to an obscure location on the back side of Low Library and its glorious steps; it was drizzling, and aside from his cousin who was visiting from L.A. "maybe two or three other people" were there—but that was the start. He spent the next two years building the anti-apartheid movement on campus; his interest took him to Zimbabwe and into politics again as an aide in the presidential campaign of Alan Cranston, the Democratic senator from California, and eventually to Ghana and finally back to the Los Angeles area, where he devoted his life to helping disadvantaged youths through a program he started called Find A Tree.

"I used to think of myself as a hotshot political organizer, and I had the future president right there and I didn't get him involved."

Obama at Columbia, making those seemingly purposeful strides down the walkway toward FBH, had not yet found his path of light. In retrospect, Armstrong wished they had met during their days together on campus. "I used to think of myself as a hotshot political organizer, and I had the future president right there and I didn't get him involved," he said. A reasonable regret, but in truth, it was Obama's choice.

Considering how determined he was to come to New York, Obama did not seem eager to shed past connections and start anew once he got there. He lived with a classmate from Occidental; his first guests at the apartment were from Occidental, including Paul Carpenter and his girlfriend, Beth Kahn; he kept in constant touch with his Pakistani friends; and he returned to Los Angeles at the first opportunity, during Columbia's semester break. A trip back to Southern California was welcome if for no other reason than because it would allow him to warm up. The 109th Street experience had proved so bone-chilling that the roommates decided to flee the cheap, but uncomfortable, quarters after that first semester, even though they had not arranged a replacement. Long before Thanksgiving, Obama had concocted a desperate plan. Their lease was to expire on December 7, but rather than pick it up themselves (they were subletting), he suggested they let it run out, not pay the last month's rent, and stay until they were evicted or found another place. "All of November we looked for another apartment, but to no avail," Boerner reported later in a letter to his grandmother. When the phone service was cut and the heat went off when you're in there and you're talking about the philosophy of Aristotle or Kierkegaard and you want to make erudite explanations of symbolism in the world…and then you want to let your hair down and say, "Yo, was sup? I'm still in New York. Be chill. Where you gonna be hanging? Let me tell you what these crazy people did to me today.'" Derek Hawkins, a varsity basketball player from South Jamaica, Queens sometimes served as the deejay at parties there, spinning "club music, R&B, Evelyn 'Champagne' King, early rap, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow."

"He looked much as he looks now, walking across campus with his books by himself. I picture him in that pilot-type jacket and maybe some dark slacks on. He had a purposeful walk, moving, going about his business."

Wayne P. Weddington III, who came to Columbia College from Central High in Philadelphia, remembered seeing Obama at meetings and parties in the Malcolm X Lounge. He described Obama's personality then as "very island mentality…always smiling, nice guy." He recalled that Obama would stay late at BSO meetings to talk about life and politics; Weddington would flee early. Weddington was more social, less serious, and not above making fun of Obama's name. At parties, he would shout buh-ROCK OBAMA like the bray of a horn. At the time, Weddington recalled, Obama was pursuing a black woman from Barnard ("she had green eyes; she was pretty") who was one of the leaders of the BSO. "It was kind of hard to carry on those things without people knowing," he said. But Obama never took a lead role with the group, and did not make much of a mark beyond Weddington's memory.

It is hard to imagine a young Bill Clinton participating in any organization without exchanging stories with every person in the room, flirting with every girl, and leaving a lasting impression, for better or worse. By contrast, some of the most active members of the Black Students Organization could not remember Obama at their meetings or parties. Again, he was more the observer—here admiring, there critiquing, always learning, but from a distance. Danny Armstrong, who attended most of the events, was director of political affairs for the organization for part of that period and has the sort of mind that holds on to names, faces, and dates. He did not know Obama from the BSO, nor from the Columbia gym, where he also spent much of his time. "I don't recall him ever being involved," Armstrong said. "I've not talked to anyone who knew him." It was only decades later, when Obama emerged as a national figure, that one image came back to Armstrong. "I didn't know him, but I remember seeing him walking across campus. I can literally visualize it": Obama with a backpack, on the walkway to Ferris Booth Hall (the student center, known as FBH, that was to be replaced a decade later), not far from Furnald Hall and the Journalism building. "He looked much as he looks now, walking across campus with his books by himself. I picture him in that pilot-type jacket and maybe some dark slacks on. He had a purposeful walk, moving, going about his business."