An interview with Anthony Williams Jr.
1. How does this novel build upon your passion for mentoring teenagers and young adults?
Have you ever noticed how much power there is in young people today? I’ve been traveling within the military quite often over the last 10 years, and I’ve noticed the passion and curiosity that teens and young adults possess around the world. Volunteering with various community service organizations across the United States has shown me that there is a critical gap in confidence, leadership and knowledge of the resources available to overcome mental health struggles.
I was a troubled teen, very misguided, but I came across people that changed my life forever. In my book, “The Assignment,” I combine some of the lessons I’ve learned with a heartfelt story to give readers a sense of purpose and inspiration to break generational curses.
2. How did your military and executive leadership experience inform your writing?
My military experience and active role as an Army Commander have greatly contributed to my writing. Most of my personal growth has occurred during my time as an officer. The book isn’t focused on the military, but I do provide many lessons learned from my time leading soldiers through tough times. The Army has taught me how to motivate people, even amidst the worst conditions possible.
3. What life lessons do you impart on readers?
I want to help teens and young adults understand that things happen in life, positive and negative, but how they react to those events determines their character.
My little sister struggled with drugs as a teenager, and I didn’t speak up when I was young. When I left for college, our relationship grew further apart, and as a result, her drug use worsened. One day I received a call that she and her friends were doing drugs in our home, and someone overdosed. My mother called the police and because they found guns and drugs in our home, everyone went to jail, including my mother.
My mother was released a few days later, but my little sister went to prison for a few years. My message to any person, regardless of age, is to speak up and seek help if they see someone struggling, especially with substance abuse and addiction, and even more so if the affected person is a family member.
4. How do you hope “The Assignment” will challenge young readers in their understanding of adversity and the ways in which to overcome it?
“The Assignment” is a book for everyone. I hope that anyone who has ever dealt with hard times or identifies with struggle can relate to my book. I have worked with people from all over the United States who have lived on opposite sides of the socioeconomic spectrum. The common denominator amongst all people, regardless of culture, ethnicity or background, is their relation to some form of struggle. We all experience struggle at some point in our life, whether it’s mental, physical, emotional or financial.
5. How is your McCourt School education preparing you to accomplish your next professional goal?
I am extremely grateful to be a graduate student at the McCourt School of Public Policy. I am blessed to be surrounded by the brightest, most articulate professors and classmates in the world. McCourt has prepared me to fully understand public policy in relation to multinational security and how ineffective social policy measures can affect people in underserved communities.
6. What is the most important piece of advice you would give to an aspiring writer?
Start writing now. Don’t wait, or second guess yourself or your abilities. You have the ability to change someone’s life, so don’t be afraid to get started. I’ve been there; it took me a while to get the courage to put pen to paper, but I did it and haven’t looked back. You can do it too. Trust me, you’ve got this!