MY WINGS ARE STRONG Ladies and Gentlemen: In my very first presentation, which I delivered to you long ago, I told

you "Friends, Fellow Fort Worthinians, if I may call you that, Countrymen and Countrywomen, lend me your ears and I will take you on a long and winding journey to a place you know not now, but very soon will recognize as if it had been right in front of your faces all along." That is and always has been a trademark of my presentations and this is NOT any kind of apology for that fact. I don't like to tell you where you are going until we reach the destination together. I would much rather you trust me and let the conclusion be a surprise. So let it be today for one final time. First, let me tell you about 3 women. Each comes from a different level of the economic spectrum. Yet, all of these women share a common bond, even though they have never met one another. One is extremely rich; she and her husband used to run and own several national trucking companies. I am sure that you would recognize the logo that is painted on every one of these trucks. They sold their trucking lines not too long ago and have more money than they know how to spend. They came from another state, where they live, to Dallas to visit their daughter who is enrolled as a first semester college student at one of the most prestigious universities in the Dallas area. The wife is having an extremely difficult time adjusting to her daughter growing up and "leaving the nest". With all the cash anyone could ever want, her most important concern is something that wealth simply can't buy. The second lady is on food stamps and lives in an incredibly poor part of Dallas. Her daughter, too, is in college--this time in West Texas. This mother is also having a terribly tough time adjusting to her daughter leaving home and spreading her wings. Finally, the third lady is a middle class woman with an average salary. Her daughter recently matriculated in a local state college, and this mother has been absolutely devastated by having to deal with this change of life. Why are they having such a rough time with something so natural and normal? Perhaps it is because these mothers, despite the differences in their wealth and status levels, are realizing that time is marching on and that they are getting older. Perhaps they simply miss the comforting feeling of a family and don't want to let go. And perhaps they are afraid of what a cold and cruel world will do to their daughters. I wish I had a complete answer to this question. Why do we fight change and growth and opportunity so much? Why do we refuse to exchange the new and the different and the strange for the old and the ordinary and the familiar? Don't we know that we can't fight Mother Nature nor Father Time and expect to win? For as long as I can remember, I have thought that the most important goal of any parent is to prepare their children to survive and even thrive on their own.

Without achieving this, parents are failures in their most important duty to their children. Yet, there are many parents who desperately cling on to their children, refusing to let them grow up, refusing to let their kids make mistakes and resolve them, refusing to let their children know the true taste of freedom and independence. Why would anyone want to shackle their children to the past and thus cripple them? I don't have good answers to these questions either, but I am anxiously continuing to search for them. And, by the way, although my examples previously and subsequently are about mothers, fathers often feel the same way about their children. In fact, fathers can be just as guilty of trying to hold on when it is time to let go. For those of you who are familiar with the Bible, the story of Solomon comes to mind: he had to decide which of two women, both claiming to be the mother of the same child, was the actual mother. He ordered the baby to be cut in half, and each "mother" was to receive her share. Immediately, one of the two women screamed, "NO! Let the other lady have the child so that it may live!" Solomon had immediately identified the true mother by his trick. Real mothers, as hard as it may be for them, will give up their children to save their lives. And perhaps those who cling on so desperately to their children should take a lesson from Solomon: After all, if children are completely protected from life by helicopter parents, they may never learn to survive on their own. And that skill can make all the difference as to whether the children can survive when Mother and Father are no longer alive and cannot help them anymore. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LET GO IN ORDER TO HOLD ON! Mother Nature and Father Time know that fact all too well. One of the "Gorilla Ladies"--you know, those ladies who spend their whole lives in Africa, watching and learning from gorillas and similar primates in their native habitats--produced a video about a mother and son gorilla. I saw it on the local Public Broadcasting Channel several years ago, and I will never forget the lesson it taught. The baby gorilla would not leave its mother, no matter how hard the mother tried to get the baby to leave her and start fending for itself. Eventually, the mother gave up trying to run her son off so that he could grow up on his own. The son followed the mother everywhere she went. That's all he knew how to do. When the mother died, the son died soon afterwards. He had never learned how to survive on his own. In this case, he did it to himself. But, in so many other cases, our parents refuse to let us grow up. And then we are doomed to find out the harsh realities of survival on our own. It is so much easier to learn such things before we need to know them than when our survival depends on it. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LET GO IN ORDER TO HOLD ON!

Let me tell you about the woman I now consider to be the best mother I have ever met, although I thought she was the meanest woman on earth when I first encountered her. I was one of her son's friends when we were young, and she always yelled at her children when they were growing up. Later on, when I was an adult, I realized that she didn't yell at her children because she was a mean person. Instead she yelled at them because she was so worried that her children would hurt themselves while they were playing dangerously, jumping over fences and climbing on houses and so on, including many things I can't even mention here and now because the statute of limitations has not yet expired! But, when her children had grown up, she let them go without much ado. And they frequently came back to visit her once they had established their independence through college life, the military, and eventually families of their own. And the new relationship they shared was a mature one that both parent and children loved much more than the parent-child relation of their earlier days. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LET GO IN ORDER TO HOLD ON! Mother Nature and Father Time deal with life differently than we do. A baby eagle is a warm and fuzzy thing. But sooner or later, it starts to peer over the edge of its nest. Maybe that nest rests on a cliff top, perhaps 1,000 feet above the ground. A thousand feet is a long ways down! Yet, I am absolutely certain that baby eagles are not afraid to test their wings and fly. And I just am sure that their parents want them to do so as well. In fact, I believe that baby eagles tell themselves--in eagle language, of course!--this before that first flight: "My wings are strong and I can fly!" Never, ever let life's challenges daunt you. DON'T YOU DARE DOUBT YOUR INNER POWER! Why hide your bright light? Take it out, let it shine all the time, and you'll be fine! His wings are strong and he can fly. Her wings are strong and she can fly. Their wings are strong and they can fly. Our wings are strong and we can fly! Maybe you're thinking about switching jobs, or perhaps someone else has already made that decision for you. Embrace what changes the future brings your way. Your wings are strong and you can fly. If you lose a loved one or someone that you simply care about very deeply, grieve but believe that there is a reason for this. Your wings are strong and you can fly. If you have suffered a tragic, life-altering accident or recently received a dreadful medical diagnosis, take courage and have faith. Your wings are strong and you can fly, even if it is through a hurricane! If you seek justice, don't forget mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes it is better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, transform it into courageous fortune, then rise above and soar to mighty heights! Your wings are strong and you can fly.

If you are faced with losing some friends and colleagues, rejoice at the opportunity to meet new people and face new challenges. Your wings are strong and you can fly. Never, ever say goodbye, because the journey of your life may take you in many directions over time, sometimes returning you to pleasant places and familiar faces that you know so well. Your wings are strong and you can fly. If you lose a friend because you told him or her what he or she desperately needed to know, but never wanted to hear, do not let yourself also surrender to despair. You would never have accepted your failure to perform the obligations of a friend had you not made this sacrifice. Your wings are strong and you can fly. And if former friends cannot bear to hear the truth you have told, will not forgive you no matter how hard you try to apologize and atone for your actions, and continue to misrepresent the truth in order to rationalize their reactions, let it be. People cannot heal all wounds, but time can! Your wings are strong and you can fly. Even if you lose the love of a lifetime, do not give up hope. A greater love may come along to take its place. And that may come by way of a former love who eventually sees the light, or by way of a better person whom you are now prepared to meet. Your wings are strong and you can fly. Many times, the animal world can teach us valuable lessons. Baby eagles don't have college degrees, but they know how to live their lives without fear and without reservation. Their wings are strong and they can fly. Your faith can take you to many places if you let it. You will seldom regret taking chances, but you will always regret lost opportunities. And despite what Mark Twain is alleged to have said, the only thing certain in this world is change. Cherish this gift and make the most of it. And now, for one final time, good listeners, I humbly return control of the floor to your able command. Thank you one and all for your time and attention and I leave you with this parting thought: Our wings are strong and, with the grace that guides this entire universe, we can fly. Don't you ever dare forget that! =========================================================== YOU RE JUST DREAMING!" Ladies and Gentlemen: Every single solitary seed of faith that you sow eventually grows into a garden of hope. Let me illustrate that to you with something that happened to me recently in my own life. I go shopping at a major big-box discount department store quite often. They're not paying me any advertising bucks, so I am not going to give them any free product placement promotion by mentioning the name of this company, although I am sure that everyone of you has been in at least one of these stores at some point in your lives.

The other day I saw a truly beautiful lady in the cosmetics aisle while I was on my way to the clearance items and pet food aisles. This was the lady of my dreams. She was drop dead gorgeous, movie star magnificent. She could have been a fugitive model from a runway or just coming back from winning a beauty contest. You get the picture: a 20 on a scale of 5. In this particular store, dog food and clearance items are only a few aisles away from the health and beauty department. I can't tell you why these items are situated so close to one another, but perhaps that is a statement on how this store views these products. I went down the clearance aisle looking for a super-bargain, but I didn't see anything that suited my fancy until I arrived at the end of the aisle. Because that's when I happened to see the lady of my dreams again, as she approached the end of her aisle. I wanted to start up a conversation with her and get to know her better. Suddenly fate stepped in and she sneezed. I said "Bless you" to her and then I joked, "maybe you're allergic to cosmetics. You don't really need them anyway. You would be beautiful even if you weren't wearing any makeup. I can tell that just by looking at you." She gave me a lukewarm smile and an obligatory "thank you" for the complement. I would have liked to have continued the conversation, but the message I got was that she was being polite instead of actually warming up to me. So I went on about my shopping. A few minutes later I saw her again behind me while I was on my way to the grocery section of the store, and so I thought I would try again to break the ice--you know, that thing we break on our very first speech. By the way, I don't think she was stalking me, I just think we were both headed in the same direction! I walked over to her and told her that I was going to get orange juice because I had been sneezing, too, and I didn't want to come down with a cold. I thought the orange juice might help ward it off. She said that she had been to the doctor earlier that day and that he had diagnosed her symptoms as simply allergies and given her some medication. We talked for a little longer and then I started to go on, but first I pulled out a business card and gave it to her. After she looked at my card, she asked me some questions and so we continued to talk. She told me about how proud she was of her son. He was on a sports scholarship at a small college in another state. He dreamed of transferring to a better-known and more prestigious university--perhaps one in Austin, Texas! And I learned that recently her dream marriage had ended in divorce, and that she had lost her dream job. When it rains on you, it pours down hard, sometimes washing your dreams away. The loss of her job was difficult on her because the economy was very bad and it wasn't easy to find work. And the discussion about the economy led us into the treacherous tropic of politics. Politics, as you may already know, is the second cousin of economics. Turns out that her favorite politician is on the very bottom of my

list. I didn't say anything bad about the man, but she could tell from the expression on my face that I didn't like him very much. It didn't take long after that for the conversation to wind down and I took my leave. After I had paid for my items at the check-out stand, I began thinking about how pessimistic she had been. The economic news was bad. Tens of thousands of layoffs had been announced just that week. Then I had a brilliant flash and I remembered a word I hated. The word is diffident. It means always coming up with the right thing to say after it is too late to say it. That happens to me all too often. If you look in a dictionary, you will see my picture by that word. I am the poster child for diffidence; I personify that word. And I began to hope that she would call me. Because I knew exactly what she needed to hear. And here's what I will say to her if I ever see her again: When I first started talking to you, I wanted to get to know you better. Because one day I hope that I will meet a lady much like you. A drop-dead gorgeous woman who sees something special in me. Maybe it will be my looks. Maybe it will be my smile or my eyes or my sense of humor. Maybe it will be my intelligence. And when I meet that lady, she won't be able to leave my side ever again. And she won't just be good looking. She, just like you, will be smart and love to laugh. Now that is stupid, blind, crazy, foolish optimism on my part. That's kind of faith you need to move mountains. Now, I know that I am not quite as good looking as George Clooney. I haven't earned my first billion dollars yet, nor even my first million. But I am hopeful that that will happen any day now. I will probably have to wait until next year for my first Nobel Prize and my first Academy Award. But if I can have that kind of faith, at almost 30 years of age--more or less--then you can, too. With everything in the world going for you, all you need is to have faith and that will see you through the toughest of times. If your dreams don't seem to be working out, maybe you just need to keep dreaming. Give God a challenge and see what He does with it. If you are brave enough to have faith, He may just surprise you. And that's my message to all of you here today! Dream, dream, dream a great big dream for you and for me! And then work hard to achieve your dreams. Don't let anything stand in your way. If you're not achieving your dreams, maybe you're not dreaming a big enough dream. There was a young man attending Harvard College. He loved to program computers. He even dug through trash cans and read other students' programs, trying to learn their tips and tricks. He was also extremely competitive. He loved to gamble; in fact, he often did so all night long. And he almost always won. Then, one day, a friend of his suggested that they quit wasting time in college and go make some real money. And that's how Bill Gates and Paul Allen began Microsoft Corporation. Bill Gates became the world's richest person and he's still up there. Dream a bigger

dream! If you're not achieving your dreams, maybe you're not dreaming a bold enough dream. There was a man who was told he had cancer and probably would soon die. But he had faith and he beat cancer. And then, Lance Armstrong went on to win the greatest bicycle race in the entire world, the Tour de France, not once, but seven times in a row! And he's talking about doing it again! Dream a bolder dream! If you're not achieving your dreams, maybe you're not dreaming a good enough dream. There was a lady who received a phone call one day, telling her that her young daughter had just been killed by a drunk driver. And when she found out what a joke drunk driving laws were at the time, she would not let her daughter die in vain. So Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and to date, MADD has saved the lives of thousands of people who might otherwise have been killed by drunk drivers. MADD has also been responsible for helping to put so many of these irresponsible drinkers in jail where they belong. Dream a better dream! If you're not achieving your dreams, maybe you're not dreaming a bright enough dream. There was a young man who dreamed of becoming President of the United States. That's not so unusual; after all, they say every young man and woman dreams of becoming President one day. But not all that long again, this young man achieved his dream, and when Barack Obama's dream came true, so did millions of other Americans, including one who is no longer with us, a man who dreamed that one day we would not judge each other by the color of our skins, but instead the content and quality of our characters. Dream a brighter dream! Now, compared to those dreams I have just told you about, my dream is pretty insignificant. But it is important to me. So, maybe that lady will call me someday. Maybe I can convince her that her favorite politician was not a very good president. Maybe she will listen. Maybe you will find that really great job you have been looking so long for. Maybe your greatest wish will be fulfilled. Dream a beautiful dream. If your dreams haven't been coming true, maybe you're dreaming the wrong dream. Maybe you need to dream a bigger dream. Maybe you need to dream a brighter dream. Maybe you need to dream a better dream. Maybe you need to dream a bolder dream. Maybe you need to dream a more beautiful dream. Never stop dreaming. Never stop believing. Never give up hope. Never lose your faith. Your dreams, you hopes, you faith will drive you on to new heights and new successes if you have the courage to follow them where they lead you. That's what I wanted to tell to you today. Even if that lady never calls me, that won't stop me from meeting new people and keeping those same hopes and dreams alive the next time I meet someone special. I refuse to stop believing that one day my dreams will come true. And don't you dare stop believing that your dreams will come true either!

=========================================================== IF YOU PANIC Ladies and Gentlemen: If you panic, you will die. There are only a few situations in life that absolutely require split-second decisions. Such situations usually involve a motor vehicle accident or the strong probability of one happening. In the next few minutes, I am going to tell you something that you have to know in order to survive. I hope and pray that you will never encounter a problem that will require you to use the following information, but just in case you do, you will be prepared. The best way I know to illustrate the principle I am talking about is by sharing an experience from my own life. You might have a hard time believing it, but I used to ride a motorcycle "a few years ago". It was the first motorized vehicle I ever owned and it was all I could afford at the time, as a college student struggling to stay in school. It was a mid-range Honda motorbike and I could use it for both basic transportation on the streets and hill-climbing off-road. Now, I was never a Hell's Angel nor a motocross competitor. I just liked the roller-coaster thrill of driving and up and down hills on the dirt. I had a number of favorite places where I loved to climb hills. At one of these places, one which I had visited many times before, I got a sudden surprise as I climbed to the top of a hill: I was headed straight towards a telephone pole that was lying on its side only a couple of dozen feet away from me. If the pole had been a hand on a clock and I had been at the center of that clock, the hand of the clock would have been pointing at 1. It's not a fun feeling realizing that you are within at most a few seconds of an extremely serious accident. Driving a motorcycle over or hitting a telephone pole is almost certain to cause serious injury or death. And it's not just the rock-solid, foot-thick wood--let me remind you of those nasty metal spikes sticking out of the wood--the one-inch diameter spikes that repair personnel use to climb those poles. I have never been very quick at thinking on my feet. But I was that day. I realized instantly that if I let my fear take over, that would only make matters worse and would probably not live to see the end of the day. Obviously, I couldn't keep driving ahead. If I jammed on my brakes, I would probably slide straight into the telephone pole. If I tried to turn too fast to the right to avoid the pole, I would undoubtedly fall over on the loose dirt and slide straight into the pole. And then, in a fraction of second, I had my plan complete. It was as if God had given me the escape route that I desperately needed. I let off the gas and let the engine decompression begin slowing my bike down. I guided it as carefully as I possibly could, giving it an ever-so-slight angle to the right. And I stayed the course and prepared myself mentally to accept whatever happened. No matter what occurred in the next few moments, I had already

decided that I was not going to panic, no matter how scared I got and no matter how much worse things became. For what seemed like decades, but was only a matter of seconds, I was driving within about an inch of the pole. Then, as I neared the end of the pole, my bike had slowed enough to the point where I had regained full control and could begin to pull away from that wooden instrument of disaster. I had avoided a very serious accident simply by refusing to let my fear turn into raw panic and take control. If anything, I used my fear that day to make split-second decisions that saved me from an extremely serious accident and probably also prevented my death. I think these kinds of situations happen for a reason. Because of this event, I feel closer to God. I believe that when we have faith, God will see us through any problem. I believe that He will give us what we need to help us through tough situations. When you panic, you are demonstrating a lack of faith. And that will get you into big problems in life. Take my word for it. And this is not the only time that such a deadly situation has happened to me. Let me now tell you about an even more frightening event in my life where I also used this same philosophy to once again save my life and avoid injury. I took two years of Spanish in high school, and I believe that I forgot more of it than I learned simply because I didn't use it. Many years later, I began to sell real estate and quite a few of my customers were Hispanic. I wanted to learn Spanish again so that I could communicate with them better. So I started taking college Spanish courses. It was easy to relearn the language because of my previous training. As I was headed to school to take the final exam for my last course, I was worried because I had not studied enough to feel comfortable taking that test. I was soon to learn that my Spanish final exam was the least of my worries that fateful day. I was driving at about 55 miles per hour down the highway in my car. It had been raining that day, but I was running late, as usual, and I was in a hurry to get to the exam. All of a sudden, some crazy driver apparently did not feel like waiting until he got to the entrance ramp to enter the freeway. He drove straight across a muddy and grassy area and entered the freeway at a sharp angle. His speed and the slick road took him straight across the highway at almost a right angle to me and to the oncoming traffic. He was only a few hundred feet ahead of me. I never would have suspected anyone would try something this stupid and this dangerous. He hit a steel lamppost, probably 50 or so feet tall and then bounced off the guardrail back into the traffic lanes, spinning around as he did so. I was sure I would run straight into him or the metal lamppost that fell down after he hit it, but I also thought it would do no good to panic. I had already been through that before with my motorcycle and the telephone pole. I had learned the lesson of remaining calm in scary situations and refusing to surrender to fear. Whatever happened, I was determined not to panic and to make the best decisions I could in the brief time I had. The lamppost had fallen down right

in front of me. I was sure I would run over it and I thought my car might flip over. I was glad that I had already gotten into the habit of buckling my seat belt, but I regretted not having bought a car with an air bag. Miraculously, the lamppost spun around and stopped almost completely parallel to my lane of traffic. The car with the crazy driver also spun out of my way. I drove straight through this mayhem, only hitting a small part of the lamppost light shade which had broken off and was lying on the road; it simply slid under my car. Except for a slight scratch on the bottom of my vehicle, both my automobile and I had escaped being physically injured. I got on my cell phone and reported the accident. I drove on and took my Spanish final exam. I was no longer worried about it! My priorities had been changed. I did fine on the exam and got an "A" in the course. I consulted with a lawyer later and he said I was in the clear legally. I had checked in my rear view mirror and no one appeared to have been injured. And I had contacted the police and left my phone number in case they needed to get back with me about the accident. Now, if I can make these kinds of split-second decisions that I have just told you about, I know you can, too. Again, I hope and pray the sorts of situations that I just finished describing never happen to you. But if something like that does occur in your life, I want you to remember that no matter how frightening the circumstances are, you cannot give into to panic. You must remain calm, think things through quickly, and realize that you are far better off controlling your emotions instead of letting them control you. God is in control of all things, not fear. Never forget that. Fear is simply the lack of faith. Just like it said on a church marquee that I saw not too long ago, worry ends where faith begins. I know that you are all capable of following these simple principles. And if you heed my advice, a lesson I believe God taught to me on these two dangerous days, you will probably avoid serious injury and death. And if you don't think you can follow this plan, I want you to remember the consequence: If you panic, you will die.