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Emmy Award-winner Montel Williams begins his 13th season as host of THE MONTEL WILLIAMS SHOW on Monday, September 8, 2003. Winner of the 1996 "Outstanding Talk Show Host" category, the show has been honored with Daytime Emmy nominations for "Outstanding Talk Show" in 2001 and 2002 and was nominated for "Outstanding Talk Show Host" in 2002. Entertaining, spontaneous and always challenging, he continues to address familial, youth and relationship issues with provocative and meaningful discussions, while maintaining his own point of view. In addition to his daily talk show, this past season, Mr. Williams flexed his acting muscles with performances on NBC's "American Dreams," ABC's "All My Children," and in the "The Exonerated," a successful off-Broadway play which tells the true stories of six innocent survivors of death row. Mr. Williams, too, appeared in a special version of the play with Aidan Quinn and Mia Farrow in front of 900 lawyers at the American Bar Association's annual meeting in Houston. Mr. Williams began his professional career in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1974, when he enlisted after graduating high school in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. After six months, he was meritoriously promoted twice, and in 1975, became the first black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School who then went on to graduate from the Naval Academy. Upon graduation, he received a presidential appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. While at Annapolis, Mr. Williams studied Mandarin Chinese and graduated with a degree in General Engineering and a minor in International Security Affairs.
He was then selected as special duty intelligence officer, specializing in cryptology. Honorably decorated, Mr. Williams has received numerous awards and distinctions throughout his varied naval career. He has been awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, two Navy Expeditionary Medals, two Humanitarian Service Medals, a Navy Achievement Medal, two Navy Commendation Medals and two Meritorious Service Awards - the latter of which is rarely awarded twice.
Montel Williams is also an accomplished author. His fitness title, BodyChange, a New York Times best-seller, which he co-authored with expert Wini Linguvic, outlines a 21-day program to looking and feeling better. He has also authored the New York Times Best-seller Mountain Get Out of My Way, a motivational autobiography.
When he was diagnosed with MS in 1999, Montel Williams made a pledge to use his celebrity to find a cure. Because of his unique position, he has had access to current research being conducted around the world. True to his word, he has established The Montel Williams MS Foundation to further the scientific study of MS. The goals and scope of The Montel Williams MS Foundation are to provide financial assistance to select organizations and institutions conducting research, to raise national awareness, and to educate the public. Currently, 100% of non-corporate donations the foundation receives go directly to funding MS research.
Remaining committed to his roots as a motivational speaker, Montel Williams continues to reach out to groups across the country with messages of hope and empowerment. Putting his own words into action, he has given back through electrifying commencement speeches at notable schools such as Lehigh University, Southern Connecticut State, and Western Connecticut State University.
One of Mr. Williams' key beliefs is that success is determined by what you give back to others, which is why he has worked actively with charitable organizations, including the AFS Edge Program which offers scholarships for disadvantaged youth to study abroad; Make A Wish Foundation; The Humane Society of the United States; The Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation; The Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund; and The Shaka Franklin Foundation for Youth. He currently serves as a Board Member for the We Are Family Foundation, and is an Ambassador to Nelson Mandela's My Acre of Africa program.
In 2002, Montel Williams served as an Olympic Torch Bearer at the Winter Olympic Games. He also assisted in coordinating the star-studded "We Are Family" video and documentary for the We Are Family Foundation, for which he also acts as a board member.
Montel Williams has four children ages eight to nineteen and resides in New York City.
Next for Montel, Managing Comedians
Emmy-winning daytime talk show host Montel Williams has launched a talent management firm specializing in stand-up comedy and focused on developing clients for TV and film projects.
The firm, called Letnom Management, further extends the industry presence Williams has through ventures like his production firm Letnom Prods.
"I felt there's a need for a full-blown management firm," Williams said in an interview Friday. "We need more laughter in this world, and I have met many talented people through my work and various activities."
Williams said he hopes to start building a roster by signing about five performers in the coming weeks and possibly expand that to about 10 during the next six months. From there, he plans to build the business based on demand.
Asked what he's looking for in performers, Williams said: "I'm looking for talented people whether they are black, white or Asian, children or adults. There will be some complete unknowns and maybe some seasoned people who haven't found a break in a while."
Williams plans to use his industry connections through the various acting, producing and directing jobs he has done over the years to find work for his new venture's comedians. For example, "The Montel Williams Show" is produced by Letnom and Paramount Pictures Television.
At the same time, the comedic talent of his new management company could help with several film projects, as well as a sitcom that Williams has been developing.
Williams, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, said the added workload does not mean he plans to give up the talk show he has done for 14 years. The show's contract expires in September 2006, but he said there have been first talks about an extension. Said Williams: "I would never let the talk show wane. I enjoy this job too much."
Montel Williams helps a family with 17 kids find a new house
It was the perfect Christmas present — or, at least, it will be soon.
On his Christmas Eve show, talk show host Montel Williams surprised Lamont and Debra Lemon, who are raising 17 kids in a four-bedroom house in Country Club Hills, with news that they will be moving into a new, spacious Habitat for Humanity house by the end of 2005.
But the Lemons, who have seen their hopes for a new home raised and dashed in the past year, aren't ready to celebrate yet.
"Right now, things are still up in the air," Debra Lemon said Friday. "We don't know what's going to happen, exactly. There are still some loose ends to tie up."
The Lemons' hesitancy is understandable, but the man in charge of building the home said the family could move in as soon as April.
David Tracy, director of the Habitat for Humanity-Chicago South Suburbs, said his organization could break ground on the seven-bedroom home at 167th and Halsted streets in the next few weeks.
"It's the biggest house we'll ever build," he said. "We don't plan on doing this frequently."
The group still needs to raise about $40,000 to get the house built, but Tracy said he expects to reach the goal in time.
The Lemons will make monthly payments and invest 350 hours toward the construction of the house, plus 100 hours in the construction of another Habitat home.
"We call that 'sweat equity,' " Tracy said.
In the short-term, the family must move out of their rental home by Dec. 31, when the new owners move in.
The Lemons had been scrambling for a place to live for months. It's almost impossible to find a landlord who doesn't pass out at the mere mention of 17 kids.
But the family's prayers were answered on that front, too, during the taping Dec. 16 of The Montel Williams Show.
Members of the Lemons' church, New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson, managed to find a place for the family to stay temporarily.
"It's hard to find a place that will rent a house to a family that large," said Janice Smith, justice ministry aide at the church. "I had a very difficult time finding it."
The temporary home in Frankfort, which is owned by an Ohio couple, has four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms.
Thanks to Montel Williams and Kellogg Co., the Lemons won't have to worry about rent payments at the house, either. Kellogg ponied up $7,500 in rent money to go along with a $3,500 cash grant from Kmart, a $4,000 Pier 1 Imports gift certificate and a free refrigerator and stove from Homewood-based Lorenz Appliances.
Williams said the Lemons inspired him and his staff with their selflessness in taking in Debra's sister's 15 kids after she died late last year.
"She stepped up to do something that a lot of us can't imagine doing," Williams said.
When Debra's sister Brenda Lattimore died in 2002, Debra took in the 13 children and two grandchildren Brenda left behind. Along with the Lemons' own seven kids, that makes for one crowded home.
Some of the children have moved out, but the Lemons' house is still packed with 17 kids day and night.
The Lemons' quiet strength has brought hundreds of people to help them out, with varying levels of success.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson promised a new house from his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition last year, but that offer fell through for legal reasons.
In the wake of that failed attempt, dozens of other people have offered to help. More than 100 people at New Faith Baptist Church have signed up to build the Habitat home.
Congregations all over the Southland have banded together to help a family in need.
"It was really cool the way it all came together," said Howard Hoekstra, pastor of Cavalry Church in Orland Park. "It's really been inspiring."
Montel's beliefs from ''Mountain, Get Out Of My Way''
My own beliefs are fairly straightforward, and not uncommon. If you believe in something else, that's fine. If you reject any of my beliefs, that's fine too, but here they are: I believe in God. I believe in love and family. I believe in education. I believe in hard work and dedication. I believe in restraint, responsibility and respect. I believe in love and romance. And I believe in setting goals and reaching them. There is nothing you can't do if you set your mind to it.
If you have faith, you can move mountains. If you have faith in something bigger than yourself - in God, community, family, whatever - then anything is possible. Faith alone will give you the strength to clear any obstacle in your way.
I don't believe that things happen by mistake. If you ask me, things happen because you make them happen. Things happen for a reason. God gave me the ability to stand on my feet and speak my piece, and it was up to me to put these tools to use. Whether by accident or design, I'd discovered that I could talk to kids in trouble and turn them around, and there was no denying it. Even if I could only make a difference for one student every time out, I had an obligation to that one student, and I could not turn my back on it.
One of my three watchwords (along with responsibility and respect), restraint is as simple as it gets. For my purposes, restraint is stopping yourself from doing or saying something that might come back to hurt you or someone else. It's exercising control or moderation. It's pulling back when your impulse is to push forwards. It's keeping you from making a fool of yourself - or at the very least knowing that what you're about to do is foolish as hell.
Montel Williams MS battle
I'd heard of multiple sclerosis, but I didn't really know what it was. I knew it meant excruciating pain and that eventually I could lose control of my body. I also knew there was no cure. That was enough to plunge me into the depths of despair.
During the next two months, I experienced the lowest moments of my life. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I became so despondent that I considered ending it all. But I knew my children and my family loved me and depended on me, and I couldn't let them down.
It became clear that I had a choice to make. I could spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself as the victim of a tragic fate. Or I could view my illness as a call to action -- an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions who suffer from MS and their loved ones.
As the host of my own nationally syndicated television talk show, I realized I had unique resources at my disposal to meet the MS challenge head on. I had both the means and the method to get the most up-to-date information available on MS from the planet's foremost authorities and spread the word.
I sought out the experts at Harvard Medical School. I traveled to Sweden for evaluation and treatment at the renowned Karolinska Institute. I read every book and article I could get my hands on, and I talked to countless people like myself who live every day with MS. I learned that I had been having MS episodes off and on for more than 20 years, but like so many, I was in denial about my illness.
Then in 1999, I went public with my battle against MS. Although I was warned that this disclosure could harm my career, I couldn't remain silent. I have one of the biggest mouths on this planet, and I decided to keep using it until everyone everywhere knows about MS, what can be done to fight it, and a cure is found.
To make this happen, I started The Montel Williams MS Foundation. Every dollar raised goes to research dedicated toward a cure for MS. I've also allied myself with Spotlight Health to promote widespread awareness of this dreadful disease because early diagnosis and treatment can help arrest suffering and loss of function. Research shows that early diagnosis and treatment prevents the progression of MS.
The world needs to know the warning signs of MS and the treatment options available. The world needs to understand that many more people have MS than current data indicates. The world needs to mobilize against MS and knock it out for good. I believe to the depth of my soul that all of these goals can be achieved. It will take courage and commitment, but these are qualities we can help each other find in ourselves. I know we can build a future of hope and health, and together we're going to win.
Montel Williams looks pretty good for a guy turning 2,500.
"Truthfully, when I started this I expected to be on for five years," he says. "I thought you hit a home run in the business if you're on for five years, then I hit the 10-year mark and now it's been 14 years." He has about two years left on his current deal and figures he might try to keep "The Montel Williams Show" going until it turns 20. "I may as well try and round it out," he says.
On today's milestone episode of the long-running talk show, Williams will kick off a week-long look at his favorite moments on the air and welcome back some of his most memorable guests.
Williams says he's seen more than 150 other talk shows come and go since his began and he's proud to have stayed away from the sensationalism that's dominated his rivals. He says his show has managed to adhere to a tough moral standard of trying to figure out why certain things have happened to his guests, finding a solution and helping viewers to prevent it from happening to them.
"The public has discerned the difference, and that's why I think they keep tuning in," he says.