Thank you and good evening...
June 01, 2011 - Last week, I was asked to give the keynote speech at Oxford-Addison Youth Assistance's annual Youth Recognition awards ceremony.
Despite my dislike of public speaking, I immensely enjoyed the experience and thought I'd share my speech with readers. Here it is:
I was deeply honored and humbled when Youth Assistance asked me to be the guest speaker for tonight's awards ceremony.
I've been covering the Oxford/Addison area for 12 years now and based on what I've seen, OAYA is one of the most valuable groups this community has because it's truly dedicated to helping all kids, especially those who might otherwise fall through society's cracks.
I'm particularly delighted to speak at tonight's event because we're here to recognize a terrific group of kids for their community service, their good deeds, their selflessness, their compassion for others, and their leadership.
Each of tonight's honorees is here because they chose to help make their little corner of the world a better place.
They didn't do it because they were told to. They didn't do it because they were paid to. They didn't do it to build a resume. They didn't do it so that others would heap accolades upon them.
Each of them did what they did because it was simply the right thing to do and that's the most honest and genuine form of volunteerism there is.
In that respect, tonight's honorees are not only role models for their fellow students, they're role models for us adults. They gave for the sake of giving, not because they expected something in return.
There's a lesson in that for all of us.
As a community journalist, it does my heart good to see young people helping the community they live in.
Too often, people think that in order to really make a difference in the world they have to travel to some distant Third World country or rush to the scene of some natural disaster.
But the truth is the greatest impact we can make on a daily basis is right in our own backyards.
You make the world a better place when you donate food to Oxford/Orion FISH.
You make the world a better place when you mentor an at-risk kid through OAYA's Mentors Plus program.
You make the world a better place when you take some time to talk with that senior citizen on your block who lives alone. Or better still, invite them over for dinner.
You make the world a better place when you attend a spaghetti dinner to raise money for a community member battling cancer. Incidentally, there's one on June 1 at Leonard Elementary for second-grader Gillian Yocum, who's fighting leukemia.
You make the world a better place when you give voice to the voiceless, extend tolerance to the scorned and protect the weak from bullies in all their forms.
In short, you don't have to travel thousands of miles to help others. All you really have to do is open your front-door and open your heart to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the forgotten and the marginalized that walk among us everyday.