Re­mem­ber­ing a day that was as good as it gets

The Standard Journal - - COMMENTARY - By Dick Yar­brough Syn­di­cated colum­nist

Some­times things come to­gether bet­ter than peanut but­ter and jelly. Take last week, for ex­am­ple.

I was in­vited to speak at the 20th an­nual Awards for Ex­cel­lence in Law En­force­ment, spon­sored by the Gainesville Ki­wa­nis Club and sa­lut­ing mem­bers of the law en­force­ment com­mu­nity in the city and in Hall County.

This event had a lot go­ing for it.

For one thing, I have a warm spot in my heart for Gainesville, go­ing back to the 1996 Cen­ten­nial Olympic Games. As a mem­ber of the At­lanta Com­mit­tee for the Olympic Games, I re­mem­ber cities across the state begged, ca­joled and some­times threat­ened us for the op­por­tu­nity to host an Olympic venue. If they were suc­cess­ful, you would have thought we had sud­denly brought a plague of lo­cust upon them.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials im­me­di­ately be­gan whin­ing about the traf­fic prob­lems the venue would cause them, se­cu­rity con­cerns, the in­con­ve­nience to the lo­cals and — oh, yeah — the need for us to pay f or ev­ery­thing. Gainesville and Hall County were the no­table ex­cep­tions.

Lake Lanier was the venue se­lected for Olympic row­ing, ca­noe­ing and kayak­ing. There was no whin­ing. No com­plain­ing. No hands out for more money. The lo­cal lead­er­ship went about their work stag­ing the events and it was a huge suc­cess. To­day, the venue is one of the few still in op­er­a­tion from the 1996 Games. Hence, my warm spot for the area.

Also, any time I have the op­por­tu­nity to thank mem­bers of the law en­force­ment com­mu­nity for their ef­forts to pro­tect us f rom our un­grate­ful selves, I jump at the chance. These are peo­ple who are do­ing things you and I couldn’t do and who see a side of so­ci­ety we don’t want to see. Peo­ple who risk their lives for us daily. I don’t know how they do it, but I am glad they do.

Those be­ing hon­ored by the Gainesville Ki­wa­ni­ans in­cluded mem­bers of the Gainesville Po­lice Depart­ment, the Hall County Sher­iff’s of­fice, the Hall County Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tute, the lo­cal State Pa­trol post, the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and the re­gional Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice fa­cil­ity. I am a mem­ber of the board of the Depart­ment of Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice.

Each hon­oree’s su­per­vi­sor spoke about how their depart­ment had se­lected the re­cip­i­ent and why. And then the hon­oree said a few words in re­sponse. By the time they had f i nished, t here wasn’t much left for me to say. They had said it all. They talked about their faith, their fam­i­lies, their co­work­ers, the sat­is­fac­tion they get from do­ing their job and help­ing peo­ple and the disappointment at how we some­times view them.

When my time came, I shared a few corny jokes (thank­fully, they laughed in all the right places and didn’t ar­rest me for im­per­son­at­ing a speaker) and re­minded them that, un­for­tu­nately, our so­ci­ety val­ues be­ing en­ter­tained more than be­ing ed­u­cated or pro­tected. You need only look at what we pay ath­letes to hit a ball with a stick and movie stars to pre­tend to be some­one they are not and then look at what we pay teach­ers to ed­u­cate us and mem­bers of law en­force­ment to pro­tect and serve us.

Over­paid pro­fes­sional ath­letes and smug movie stars are not he­roes. Not even close. They are about as rel­e­vant to the well-be­ing of our so­ci­ety as crab­grass. I was faceto-face with real he­roes in Gainesville. I hope the kind of recog­ni­tion that took place in Gainesville is oc­cur­ring at lo­cal civic clubs all over Ge­or­gia.

There is an­other rea­son Gainesville is spe­cial to me. It is where my brother l i ves. Un­like his younger brother, Bob Yar­brough is the quiet and thought­ful branch of the fam­ily. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful busi­ness ca­reer, re­tir­ing as pres­i­dent of a pub­lish­ing com­pany in Chicago, Bob moved to Gainesville to be near his two daugh­ters and their spouses, one of whom is Lee Dar­ragh, the dis­trict at­tor­ney in Hall County. These days, the for­mer busi­ness­man spends his time vol­un­teer­ing at the lo­cal hos­pi­tal and at his church. That’s just the kind of per­son he is.

So here I am in a town for which I have a par­tic­u­lar fond­ness be­cause they walked their talk when it came to the 1996 Olympic Games. I ’ m watch­ing com­mu­nity lead­ers show­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion of their lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies. And if that wasn’t enough, there sits a guy in the front row watch­ing a kid brother whose shoes he used to have to tie. A day just doesn’t get any bet­ter than that.

Dick Yar­brough

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