Today can be a difficult day for me. January 11th is the anniversary of my mom’s death. It’s been fourteen years since she passed away. As you might understand, there’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. I’ve noticed through the years, though, that most of the time when I think of her, I smile. Rather than the sadness of losing her, I’m more in touch with the joy of having known her and the good fortune of having been raised by her.
Today’s also difficult because of the events of the past week. These are not easy times for our country. My mom, like our country, didn’t always have the smoothest path forward. She had ups and downs in life, disappointments and setbacks, and challenges that for some seasons seemed to get the better of her. Yet, ultimately, she prevailed to live a life of meaning and significance. I think it’s because she was always striving for a better future – that same spirit I believe is in all of us.
We can always get better.
As you work to contribute your best to your family, your workplace, your community, and our world, I thought that today I’d offer some advice I think my mom would’ve offered:
- Have the courage to be yourself. My mom had the ugliest purple sunglasses. The more I complained about them, the more she’d wear them around me, sharing, “I love purple, I love these shades. You’ve gotta let the people you love be themselves Courtney, that’s why you love them, for who they are.”
- Get a great education, no one can ever take your knowledge away. So much of the turmoil happening in our world today is due to people not taking the time to understand issues, polices, and – most importantly – each other. Don’t rely on soundbites and memes to inform you. If something matters to you, learn about it.
- See the world firsthand. My mom loved history and diverse cultures. When I was in 6th grade, she gave a presentation to my class on the ancient Mayan civilization, complete with pictures of pyramids, fire pits, and Chacmools (look them up, they are pretty creepy.) Then, she took it one step further, scrimping and saving to be able to take my sister and me to Mexico to see the history up close. While the trip was an extravagance for us, she always encouraged me to experience different cultures, styles, and viewpoints “even if it means reading about them if you can’t visit.” It was her way of reminding me to form my own opinions, and to not be so “peer group oriented.”
- This, too, shall pass. Hard times don’t last forever. Yet it can often take hard work to get through them. “Show ‘em what you’re made of!” were the last words she spoke to me before I boarded the van to Marine training.
My hope is the essence of my mom’s guidance speaks to you now. Angie and I believe in the power of leaders at all levels. America’s best days are ahead of her. She just needs each of us to step up and lead as we are by learning, seeing, understanding, and working hard to influence that outcome.