Last night, at American University I was given the 2013 Alumni Recognition Award after being nominated by several of my peers. It was truly one of those once in a lifetime moments and meaningful to have my wife present alongside me and several close friends. I’m still smiling every time I think about what a lovely occasion it was.
This week as I was telling my parents about receiving this honor my dad, a man of few words (so when he speaks you have to pay attention) said something to me that caused me to stop and think.
He said, “Son, did you ever think you’d be in a position like this? Coming from a small South Georgia town of 15,000 people, a town where few people ever leave to move elsewhere . . . as the first person in your immediate family to ever attend college much less graduate school. Did you ever think you’d be able to be in the position where you are today, traveling all over the world, helping children as you do?” Then he paused, “You owe a lot to your education.”
And it is true. I would have never dreamed of this life happening to me and I am a so grateful for my education for bringing me to this moment.
Furthermore, I know I wouldn’t have received such an award if I’d hadn’t said yes to Feed The Children 16 months ago.
Feed The Children has what I believe to be one of the finest missions in the world: providing hope and resources to those without life’s essentials.
I spent much of my first year listening, learning the unique culture in the organization and its strengths, weaknesses, and wounds, and identifying what foundation and structure was needed to help us achieve our vision.
During these months, my American University education has proved exceptionally valuable. I often thought of the countless ways my coursework at American opened my eyes to the complexities of global issues and instilled in me values of needed to address the world’s deepest social ills in ways that bring the most good to the most people while treating them with the highest levels of dignity and respect.
And not that I didn’t use my international affairs degree in my previous places of employment, but now as I lead a global non-profit, it is a real joy to think I’m putting my education “to good use.” I’m standing on the shoulders of American University as I work and seek to lead and grow professionally everyday.
American University in particular the School of International Service, I’m proud to continue to be a part of your alumni family. I hope I’ll continue to make you proud.
What about you? Whose shoulders are you standing on?