Over my life, I have been fortunate to receive several awards and recognitions. I cherish all of them; however, one stands out. It does because of what it represents. Here are the details: I was asked a little over a month ago by one of my most important mentors, Al Jackson, to be the keynote speaker at the annual American Legion Black-Tie event here in Atlanta. It means so much to me because I was in ROTC in high school and developed a tremendous respect for veterans. In addition, both my father and father-in-law served in the Korean war. I didn’t get a chance to serve our country because I was sixteen when the Vietnam war ended.
My respect for veterans increased as I started traveling around the world. Going to different countries gave me a greater appreciation of the liberties and opportunities we have here in America that don’t exist to the same degree anywhere else in the world. They didn’t come free. Veterans paid a price for them.
I had previously committed that night to having dinner with two CEOs who I have a tremendous degree of respect for. I was very pleased how understanding and supportive they were when I told them what my change in plans were.
The topic of my speech will be “The one thing we must always be willing to fight for.” To me it is anything that limits a person’s ability to be the best that he or she can be. In other words, anything that limits opportunity must be fought against.
I’ve found that fear is the biggest limiter to opportunity. Specifically, the fear of failing, losing what you already have, and the fear of others. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me I was thinking too big or too differently. I didn’t listen to that bullsh*t because of my respect for the price veterans paid--going back to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars--for me to pursue whatever opportunity I wanted.
In closing, this upcoming Monday is Veterans Day. I’m honored that I get to spend this Saturday night with the people who were willing to give their life for the opportunities I have been able to achieve in my life.