That’s the word I’ll be using for the rest of my life each time someone asks me to describe how I felt to receive a Proclamation from the City of Cincinnati on August 5, 2015.
My Team and I arrived at City Hall just before lunchtime. We were greeted by Councilman Wendell Young and his chief of staff Sedrick Denson. Then Patchy, the Melbourne and Michael Folkes Foundation’s mascot and spokesperson (actually a petite Team member in costume), welcomed 18 schoolchildren from the Envision Children Program that encourages high standards, academic excellence and moral behavior. All were dressed in identical lettered green t-shirts. We presented them with gift bags of school supplies and bagged lunches.
The kids all rushed to hug Patchy––and only later, me––thus allowing me to stay very clear about who was really Most Popular.
A City Council meeting took place next, and afterward Mr. Young stood with fellow Council member Charlie Winburn to read the Proclamation. It lauded the Mighty In Character Leadership approach, the Melbourne and Michael Folkes Foundation which inspires hope and ambition among Jamaican students, the M.A. Folkes Company, Inc. with its 18-plus year history, the Second Chance program that employs former felons, and the book, Driven By Desperation, which recounts my rise above seemingly hopeless circumstances.
When asked to respond, I quoted two lines that my grandparents conveyed to me repeatedly when I was a child: “Hard work does pay off,” and “Always remember that people are watching.” That wisdom still resounds today, as does my early awareness that no one makes fundamental changes by him/herself, but through the cooperation and help of many, many others. A successful life is not about where you come from, but where you go––and you get there only with assistance.
So it seemed appropriate to have invited my own prominent people to be present. But gazing around the hallway that day I felt grateful for all the blessings and honor bestowed upon me and how wonderful it was to share it with friends, family and business associates, some having traveled long distances. And of course my office Team players who always fulfill my deluge of requests and assignments with grace and humor, no matter how tight the time frames may be.
Make no mistake; none of this would have been possible without such loyalty and devotion. We took lots of group photos to commemorate “my” day, really theirs as well. And, looking around again at so many precious faces, all smiling with happiness on my behalf, all gathered on one afternoon in one place for one very special event, it was still hard not to cry.
Yes, I was weak-at-the-knees humbled. As I would continue to be––always and forever.