Mary McLeod Bethune was motivated by her experiences and hardships growing up, and by her religion, Christianity. Growing up in the South, one of a very large family during the reconstruction era, Mary experienced racism and unfairness based on the color of her skin. Her family was given no advantage in the southern white culture, and very little land to live on. Despite the hardships, the McLeod's made due and built themselves a cabin on a small plot of land where they grew cotton and corn. During this period in her life, Mary's parents encouraged her to be an active participant in school, and her work.  Throughout her life, Mary brought these experiences and life lessons with her while she did her life's work, and used her memories to guide her.

    She had felt the pain of not getting the same equal opportunities as many others in her community because of the color of her skin, so she was able to raise her voice to fight against the racial divisions that she believed no one should ever have to endure and experience in their lifetimes. She also used her faith in God and her religious beliefs to guide her.She was also taught her to put her faith in God, and trust him. She always incorporated the teachings of Christianity in her work in education. Later in her life, when she was able to found a school, she built it and sustained it with the core principles and teachings of Christianity.