Vai Sikahema speaks on the power of personal influence

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Vai Sikahema was the guest speaker at this year’s Raymond E. and Ida Lee Beckham Lecture in the School of Communications.

On Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, he shared experiences and stories of people who have impacted him, as well as discussing the impact he has made.

Gianluca Cuestas
Vai Sikahema shared stories and experiences that exemplify how powerful personal impact and influence can be. (Gianluca Cuestas)

Sikahema earned his degree in broadcast journalism at BYU, where he played football. He was later drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Cardinals, then went on to play for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. He is currently a morning news anchor for NBC 10.

Sikahema started his lecture with a story about the impact his mom made on a group of Sunbeams in Mesa, Arizona. While Sikahema was playing for the Cardinals, he got a call from his mom inviting him to attend a reunion of the Sunbeam class she taught. Sikahema was fascinated that the former Sunbeams were gathering in their early 20s for a reunion.

“When I went, I realized it wasn’t so much a reunion, as it was a celebration of thanksgiving to the influence that my mother had on them,” Sikahema said. “That had a great impact on me and how I viewed influence.”

Sikahema then said his father couldn’t attend his high school football games because he worked two jobs. An article in the Mesa Tribune mentioned this offhand, and Sikahema’s high school subsequently offered his father a job as security guard. This job earned enough money for Sikahema’s father to quit both previous jobs and purchase a home.

“I realized the power of influence I had as an athlete, and the effect it would have on our quality of life,” Sikahema said.

Sikahema’s scout master and youth leader also had a valuable impact on his life, Sikahema said. When Sikahema was about 12 years old, the leader told him his behavior determined the success or failure of the lessons in class.

The leader said when someone behaves like a clown the other kids will follow, but when someone is engaged, the other kids are as well. He then asked Sikahema to help him teach the class.

“As a young boy, that had such a profound impact on how I viewed myself as someone who had influence over my peers,”  Sikahema said with tears in his eyes.

Sikahema also shared a story of traveling from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City. Sikahema said he wears his BYU gear wherever he goes because it always starts conversation.

While on a flight, Sikahema had the aisle seat, a woman named Nicole had the middle seat, and a young kid named Scott McGrath, who wearing a BYU shirt, had the window seat. Sikahema noticed Nicole reading the Bible.

Sikahema started talking to Nicole and shared that he was LDS. When she asked about the LDS Church’s views on Adam and Eve, Sikahema shared that the Church believes their role was important and that people will be judged for their own actions. Nicole did not believe this could be church doctrine.

“I told her, ‘What I shared with you, Nicole, is taught and known by even the children in our church,”  Sikahema said.

Sikahema then had an idea and asked McGrath, who was listening to the conversation, if he knew the Article of Faith about Adam. Scott recited the Article of Faith, and Nicole was impressed.

Years later, McGrath went on a mission and emailed Sikahema stating that, ‘While you were trying to convert that woman on the plane, you actually were converting me.’

“Scott created for me one of the wonderful experiences I’ve had in my life, because our personal influence doesn’t always have to be with the rich and powerful,” Sikahema said. “It’s often with somebody like Scott, who’s had such a profound impact.”

The last experience he shared was of the impact made on the temple being built in Philadelphia by a former stake president, the city council president and the mayor.

Darrell Clarke, city counsel president, and Ahmad Corbitt, then the stake president, bonded instantly. Sikahema said Clarke championed the temple in Philadelphia by doing research and learning everything he could about LDS temples. Clarke brought paperwork to a meeting with Mayor Michael Nutter to show how Mormon temples increase property value, and Sikahema also encouraged Nutter to facilitate temple construction.

“I basically said to him, ‘Mayor Nutter, with all due respect, you’re just starting your first term as mayor, but I promise you, if you approve this temple to move forward, this will be the crowning achievement of you administration,'” Sikahema said.

Sikahema said the influence his mother had over her Sunbeam class was no less powerful than the influence that Nutter on bringing a temple to Philadelphia.

“I think we all recognize the influence we have made maybe within just the four walls of our home,” Sikahema said. “I’ve seen how people wield their influence, people with power and money, and I’ve seen it with people who are poor like my parents, who did the best they could.”

Sikahema closed by expressing gratitude for the impact BYU had on his life and his family’s.

“I’m grateful that my experience at BYU taught me and helped me to use whatever influence I’ve gained in my life, because of work or whatever it is I’ve been given,” Sikahema said, “and to share it in building the kingdom wherever we’ve lived.”

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