Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond Gave Keynote Address at Banquet Saturday Night in Valdosta

GA Labor Commisisoner Michael Thurmond was down in Valdosta where he gave the keynote speech at the 100 Black Men of Valdosta, Inc Banquet saturday night at Valdosta Middle School.

Rather than focus on those who should but don’t, I’m going to focus on those who do,” Thurmond said. “I’m going to talk tonight about the men, like all the men in this room, who do. I’ve come to Valdosta to celebrate our men.”

Thurmond said there are too many youths in prison, too many youths who have turned to crime or drugs, and not enough emphasis on those who do right every day.“There are good men all around, and ladies, there are good black men all around. Too many women say they can’t find a good man but there are a lot of good men here tonight,” he said, asking all the men in attendance to stand.

“Men who look like Denzel Washington may be hard to find, but good men aren’t. A lot of good men drive a Lexus or a Mercedes, but there are a lot of good men who have to use their thumb to get to work every day, but they work hard and make good money to take care of their family.”

Before discussing his childhood, Thurmond added, “When fathers positively invest themselves in their children, good things happen. It doesn’t matter if that father is rich or if he’s educated or what kind of job he’s got — good things happen.”

Thurmond recounted growing up in rural Clark County as the last of nine children. His father was a sharecropper, worked nights at a poultry plant and on weekends, loaded up the kids in an old truck and delivered vegetables on a route. He told his son that one day, that route would be his.

Although that wasn’t exactly his dream, after finishing law school and practicing for several years, Thurmond said he depended on that route when he decided to run for the State House.

“I knocked on all those doors, and those ladies remembered my father and remembered me as a child and they helped me get elected. My father left me his vegetable route, and it ended up being a pathway to my future. You got all you need from your grandparents, your parents, your family. You’ve got what you need to succeed.”

Thurmond extolled the virtues of the 100, saying they walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to helping youth. Their programs include SAT Prep, tutoring, mentoring, scholarships and more, all with an emphasis on education.

In introducing Thurmond, attorney Roy Copeland said he has known him since 1980, his first year in law school in Athens. At that time, Thurmond was already a practicing attorney and Copeland recalled all the assistance that Thurmond gave to young law students and any other student who needed help.

Thurmond is also a member of the 100 chapter in Dekalb County and he is currently seeking election to the U.S. Senate.

Following the keynote speech, 100 member Johnny Ball presented Community Service Awards to educator Helen Jackson, a Valdosta High School teacher who is active in the SAT Prep program; Percy Chastain, who works with educating youth on health issues through his position with the South Health District; and Pastor Angela Manning, who has taken the role of pastor at New Life Ministries since the passing of her husband, Pastor Larry Manning.

In his closing speech, Copeland thanked the corporate sponsor, Walmart, and told the crowd about the work of the 100.

“Our Quiz Bowl team took the National Championship last year in New York and we were named the Chapter of the Year for the National 100 organization for the third or fourth time. I want to thank my friend Michael for focusing on what we do, not what we don’t do.”

Emcee for the evening Donald Williams also thanked Valdosta musician and saxophonist Kwame Holder for serenading the crowd and the caterer for the evening, Antoine’s Flavor of New Orleans.

The Black Tie dinner is one of the 100 Black Men’s annual fundraising activities.

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