Good morning and thank you for joining us this morning. I want to welcome each and every one of you to Webster and give a special "thank you" for joining us for this special occasion. Also, allow me to welcome: Webster President Beth Stroble, Provost Julian Schuster, our business school's namesake Ambassador George Herbert Walker, III and his wife Carol, Webster trustee Tom Cornwell and all the cancer survivors, volunteers, and friends that we have in the audience today. Thank you for joining us. I will be remiss if I forget to recognize my wife Bola. Thank you.
Please join me in welcoming to the stage the President of Webster University, Beth Stroble.
A couple of years ago, I returned to my ancestral home after more than ten years to visit my folks. One day, I decided to take a stroll throughout my old neighborhood. As I stepped outside our family home, I heard a familiar voice call out, "hey, 35, is that you?" Stunned, I didn't answer or look back, so I just kept walking. You see, #35 was my nickname, a name that had stuck since the 9th grade-it's my story that many of your have heard me tell.
I kept telling myself this person surely couldn't be calling out to me. Finally, I turned around and came face to face with my past. It was my longtime friend and classmate Toun.
Toun and I remininsced about the days gone by. Toun shared her story that she was now president of one of the top merchant banks in the city and that she was happily married and mother of two boys.
Only a few months after returning to st. Louis my dad called. Toun was sick. My dad encouraged me to reach out to her. I called immediately. That day, Toun told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that it had spread to her vital organs. But despite the prognosis, Toun was upbeat with her voice radiating the strength and composure that she had shown since our younger days.
"Toun, you've got to be strong," but then Toun turned the table on me. "I'm going to beat this. Don't worry. I'm going to be ok."
She wasn't. Less than two weeks later on a cold Saturday morning around 3am, I received the call from my dad that Toun had passed away. I hung up the phone, sat up in bed and I cried for my childhood mentor and an amazing mother of two who had been blindsided by this devastating disease.
Cancer, especially breast cancer, just like a bully on a playground that just keeps coming back to take away our family members, our friends, and our loved ones, cancer robs from us precious time and memories from those we hold so dear.
It was 1980 when Susan G. Komen lost her gallant battle with breast cancer and her younger sister, Nancy, vowed to continue to fight for a cure to eradicate the disease and the social stigma surrounding breast cancer. But, how much can one person do? Today, we honor a person that is indeed the personification of the power of one.
In its first 3 decades, Susan G. Komen for the Cure raised more than $2 billion for breast cancer education, research, service, but along the way, Ambassador Brinker will be the first to admit that she has learned from what they have done right and what they have done wrong, but yet they continue their unrelenting goal for the millions of women who rely on their cause.
My friends, it is often said that the real measure of success comes from how we react during times of tribulation. Anyone can steer a ship over still waters. It's the storms that define us.
Ladies and gentlemen, the stealing must stop. We can't be complacent when battling a merciless foe. We can't allow it to destroy our lives and those around us. We must be committed to building awareness, funding research, providing treatment and supporting hospice when needed.
Today, October 10th, 2012, we remember our friends and loved ones whose lives were cut short by this formidable foe, breast cancer. We recognize Nancy Brinker for her audacity of vision, the courage of leadership, humility in the face of challenges and the determination to keep on keeping on.
Her leadership journey in founding and nurturing the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors has taken her onto high hills and into low valleys. Despite the highs and the lows, Ambassador Nancy Brinker continues to move forward with her mission to make cancer the victim. My friends, I want to remind you that the greatest lessons in life are never learned on the mountain top but in the valley. It's the valley where character is defined. It is there where purpose is strengthened.
Because Nancy Brinker helped to move the battle of life and death from personal to the public; because she strengthened our resolve to fight cancer, knowing one day we shall win this battle, because she is one of us, we honor Ambassador Brinker today.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask that you please stand with me, as we welcome to this podium the 2012 George Herbert Walker Person of the Year, Ambassador Nancy Brinker.
""We were all born originals, but most of us spend the rest of our lives trying to be copies. It's your originality that will set you apart." "
- Dr. Benjamin Akande
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