Resolve to be a “Contributer” to Life

Lessons Learned in the Presence of Greatness

“Someone out there needs you more than you need them!” – Lt. General Hal Moore

It’s February 15, 2010, President’s Day, and I’m shivering in a brutally cold whipping wind in Montevallo, Alabama. The skies are blue and the sunshine is beautiful, though, and there is an air of expectancy and anticipation that buoys my every step. “Thank goodness I’ve worked in outdoor conditions of all description,” I think to myself. “At least I’m thoroughly bundled up.” The reality is I’ve spent many a production day in sweltering 95 degree heat, with 50 to 60% humidity, trying to salvage a silk blouse and a hairdo. I’d take the cold any day!

I step inside to check on last minute details in my notes, and to make final phone calls; and stop to compliment two polite and lovely women who await the start of an eventful and unforgettable day. They are currently in a quiet hall, chatting softly, giving no hint as to the magnitude of the convocation that will start shortly, or to the growing crowd gathering at the end of the driveway, stepping into line as they exit their vehicles. I take it all in, literally savoring every second of the energy and expectation and excitement that whirls around me.

I can’t imagine being anywhere else at that moment in time, and am still in awe of how God and the universe say “yes” to heartfelt intentions, to a deeply rooted sense of purpose, and a determination to find a way to somehow contribute to the world, no matter how great or how little you are able to put forth. So, literally running from location to location on an outdoor campus with freezing wind at my back, I’m elated at the prospect of what is to come, and know that this will be a day I will never forget.

Like every unforgettable day in one’s life, there is a back story. And my particular story about that amazing day in Montevallo, Alabama is directly related to the gift of a book, and what the words within it meant to me. “In the Presence of Greatness ….” Mac Anderson writes in his forward to the Simple Truths book A Tender Warrior: 5 Leadership Letters To America, “I wasn’t prepared to be blown away by General Hal Moore’s kindness, humility, and his passion for life.”

You see, a year ago, in February 2009, I had the distinct privilege of meeting Mac Anderson in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was a follow-up to the inclusion of my story in his 2008 book Customer Love, and when I had the chance to speak to him on a “poster-perfect” day in the gorgeous Arizona desert, I was open to any inspiration and possibilities that a conversation with such an accomplished man could render. I was there with complete “heart, soul and intellect” at attention, and when he put an advance copy of A Tender Warrior in my hands, electricity went through me and sparked what I can only call “a knowing:” I was drawn to the General, and with each touch of the pages, I knew I had to somehow, some way, be in his presence.

So my story today is not just about how I traveled from sunny Southern California to unseasonably cold Alabama to be a part of an event that would honor Lt. General Hal Moore, and it turns out, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr., as well. It’s a story about how deeply-rooted purpose gave me the courage to reach out again and again to someone I felt an enormous amount of respect, appreciation, and admiration for; and in so doing, found myself in the presence of greatness all around.

We ALL Have Something to Contribute to Life

I remember a day, many years ago, when I had the privilege to meet Alma Powell. “Young or old, you still have something to give to your country,” she said. Now that I’m squarely positioned in the “mature” segment of our population, I think a lot about the wisdom of this statement, and believe that it applies to life as well.

Who’s to say that a person of a “certain age” contributes less to our world than someone of youth and physical prowess? I plan on living at least another 50 years on this planet (I have to – I have way too many plans to check out earlier!!), and not in one mental image of myself down the road do I see a woman who is not giving back to my community, country, friends, family and earth. I will leave this world kicking and screaming if I don’t make a difference. And, honestly, part of the drive within me to do something significant comes from a huge recognition of the trails blazed and conquered by those who have come before me. My achievements are meant to be an acknowledgement of the debt I owe to those who created the life I have, and who did so in uncertain, difficult, and often deadly circumstances. Giving back is part of who I am.

So, when I was offered the chance to come to Montevallo, Alabama to honor General Hal Moore as he was appointed Distinguished National Honorary Chair of The American Citizenship Trust and its American Village Campus; and to see him present the American Freedom Award to his longtime friend General George W. Casey, Jr., and posthumously to General George W. Casey, Sr., a fire in my belly said, “Go!”

I did, and I didn’t look back. In anticipation of what I knew was going to be an amazing experience, in the midst of the events of the celebration weekend, which included the 88th birthday celebration of General Moore, as well as a 10th Anniversary celebration of the American Citizenship Trust, I opened myself up to meeting amazing people like Tom Walker, Founder and CEO of the American Citizenship Trust, and his wonderful, accomplished staff at the American Village.

I met the man called “Driver,” the author of A Tender Warrior, and his lovely and spirited wife Char. I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Sobel, of Sobel Communications, a specialist in military history and events, who has interviewed and written about General Moore for publication numerous times.

But, I cannot tell a lie. The event truly came alive for me the minute the beloved Vietnam War hero himself, Lt. General Hal Moore, walked into view, a handsome soldier with a huge, beautiful smile. When he passed by me in the processional, I knew I was right where I was meant to be that day. And when he delivered his prepared speech with strength and conviction and energy, nearly 600 of us were electrified. We were truly “in the presence of greatness.”

Authenticity is Contagious and Powerful

There is one more observation I’d like to share with you about General Moore that I witnessed on President’s Day. I saw what I can only describe as the “magic” of this man. As he spoke about the importance of young people to our future, he was bold at the lectern. As he described his sadness about the blood of his soldiers on his hands, he showed the soft side of the warrior.

When he presented Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr., and Casey’s father, General George W. Casey, Sr., with the National Freedom Award, his smile lit up the room. His love for the Army Chief of Staff, who was like a son to him after the death of his father in Vietnam, was demonstrative, and returned with genuine admiration from the man who now leads our country’s Army. Photos snapped of the two men side by side throughout the day reveal a bond so heartfelt, it lifted all of us who had gathered at the convocation, and infused an easy atmosphere in the press room, where I was helping direct the media crews.

But, here’s what I will never, ever forget for as long as I live: When it was announced that “Liberty Hall,” the venue for the convocation that day, was officially going to be renamed “Lt. General Hal Moore Hall,” we saw the purest, most radiant reaction of honest-to-goodness joy and surprise on our hero’s face. I imagine that everyone there that day feels himself or herself to be a better person for witnessing that moment.

“Suit Up” to Make Your Dreams Come Alive

What else did I learn while in the presence of greatness? Believe every day that your dreams can come true. The event at the American Village Campus introduced me to heroes from all walks of life. I saw the manifestations of the dreams of so many people, like Tom Walker, his staff, and Driver. I saw the joy in a beloved hero’s face as he became the official honorary chair of the American Citizenship Trust at 88 years of age. And, yes, I was there to see it and help with it. I suited up. I lived my dream.

If there is anything I would like you to take away from reading about my amazing experience in Alabama, it’s this: if you decide to follow your dreams, no matter who you are, where you are, or how old you are, the incredible can happen. As Geothe said many, many years ago, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

Di Chapman is the Founder and President of Words To Your Advantage Speaking and Writing Service; and the Chief Communications Officer for Power Connections Inc. Executive Outplacement and Career Management Services. Her website is http://www.dichapman.com

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