Olympic gold-medalist Billy Mills told Haskell Indian Junior College's freshman class members Tuesday that they have the ability to be the school's most successful students.
During Haskell's first assembly of the school year, Mills, who won the 10,000-meter race in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, told the student body to set "positive desires" and strive for success.
"You truly can become the greatest graduating class at Haskell," said Mills, who attended Haskell when the Bureau of Indian Affairs institution was a high school.
An Oglala Sioux, Mills told the students that they can succeed and retain their identity as Native Americans.
Mills, an orphan who grew up on a reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D., told the students that "It's OK to dream dreams."
INTERSPERSED with jokes, Mills' speech at Haskell was in conjunction with a video he was shooting on the campus for the BIA.
Mills animatedly talked about a 10K race he competed in with Robby Benson, the actor who portrayed Mills in "Running Brave," the movie made about Mills' life. Mills said children on the sidelines yelled "That's `Running Brave!'" when they spotted Benson. Frustrated they couldn't see, other children yelled out "Get that old man out of the way!"
Mills said he looked around for the old man, only to discover that the children were talking about him.
Another story Mills shared with his audience was when he boarded the bus in Tokyo that took him to the Olympic games. Mills said he sat next to a beautiful woman from Poland. After discovering that Mills was going to compete in the 10,000-meter race, the woman asked Mills, "Who do you think is going to win?"
THE 1962 Kansas University graduate said "I'm going to win." The woman responded with "Well, what's your name?"
On a more serious note, Mills talked about "growing up in a world where no one believed in me."
He said he was not allowed to join a fraternity at KU because he was Native American. He said he couldn't share an apartment with two friends because "one was black and the other was white."
Mills, who now delivers speeches on the lecture circuit, said he succeeded despite the odds because he believed in himself, and he urged Haskell's student body to do the same.
He asked the students to share 12 "positive desires," or goals, with a group of classmates.
"Eliminate six, discuss six," Mills instructed. "Eliminate three, and keep three two short-range and one long-range. Get to know each other on those positive terms."