EDITORS NOTE: The following speech was given Feb. 6, 2013 at the American Red Crosss Real Heroes Breakfast. The event was organized by Jane G. Gendron, chapter executive of the American Red Cross of Northern New York.
Before I begin today, I need to tell you the truth: I have never been so honored and yet so humiliated at the same time in all my life.
Now, I AM honored to be here today for having donated blood to the American Red Cross for more than 30 years obviously, donating blood is important to me. And I am always encouraging others to donate blood, too.
Donating blood, I tell people, is the lazy mans way of saving a life.
For me it generally consists of walking across the street to the Dulles State Office Building, lying down on a padded table and trying not to fall asleep out of sheer boredom. Ten minutes later, its needle in, needle out and theyve got what they need from me.
I then walk over to a table, sit down and eat a package of Lorna Doone cookies, usually two. Then I down a small box of apple juice before triumphantly walking the 100 yards back to my office to spend the rest of the afternoon irritating my staff.
And yet here on my day of celebration for donating more than 11 gallons of blood, look at what Jane Gendron has done to me. She has dragged me out in public to sit with a bunch of people who, when they save a life, actually break a sweat.
Today you are meeting people who have run into burning buildings, sailed off into stormy seas, and let a doctor cut out their kidney.
And then there is me:
Thank you for donating blood today. Is there anything else I can get you?
Yes, maam can I have another package of Lorna Doones, please?
Its humiliating. And I will tell you something, Jane Gendron: Theres only one thing keeping me from walking out that door right now. And thats the fact that this is no time for us to have a divided community regarding our nonprofits. This is no time for us not to stand together behind the American Red Cross.
Now I am not going to tell you that there should be panic in the streets. But I will tell you that the Huns are at the gates and the wolves are at the door. We now live in a society in which everybody thinks all services should be available to all people at all times at a moments notice. And yet too many of those same people are doing nothing in their personal lives to ensure these services are indeed available.
I blame that bumper sticker: Commit random acts of kindness. Dont get me wrong, I like random acts of kindness, and there is certainly nothing more random than running into a burning building to save a life or giving a kidney to your brother.
But the American Red Cross cannot exist if our communitys response to it is random.
Ive been in the news business a long time, so let me tell you how it works: We write stories about airplanes that crash; we dont write stories about airplanes that land safely. And so most people only think about, talk about and read about the Red Cross when there is a disaster. And then half the stories are about whether the Red Cross did a good job or a bad job responding to the disaster.
But the Red Crosss success story is not just about disaster response; its about disasters averted. Its about the college student working at Westcott Beach who sees a swimmer in trouble and responds immediately because he took the Red Crosss lifeguard course and so nothing really bad happens; its about the Adams teenager who sees a child in trouble and responds immediately because she completed the Red Crosss baby-sitting course and so nothing really bad happens. And its about the Clayton waitress who sees a diner choking and immediately uses the Heimlich maneuver because she took the Red Crosss CPR course and so nothing really bad happens.
And thats the conundrum for the Red Cross. When it is at its best, the Red Cross is about the stories none of us will ever read in the newspaper.
Todays event is a celebration of random acts of kindness, and lets be blunt: had it not been for the acts of some of the people in this room we would have printed a few more obituaries in the paper last year.
But it is also a day for our community to renew its commitment to the Red Cross; to respond not randomly, but with resiliency. To respond not randomly, but resourcefully. To respond not randomly, but relentlessly. And by so doing our response to the Red Cross will not be random but routine.
To that end let us make a financial commitment to the Red Cross; let us speak words of encouragement throughout the year to the staff, board of directors and volunteers. And then lets pledge to be ambassadors for the Red Cross, reminding those we meet that the Red Cross is here not because some faceless, nameless bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., declared it so. But rather, the Red Cross and the services it provides are here because the local chapter is where the rubber meets the road.
And today, I pledge to also do my part to support the Red Cross, which means I will swallow my pride, whats left of it, and extend my congratulations to my fellow honorees. And just to prove there are no hard feelings, for having you all show me up this year, I would like to give each of our honorees a gift of appreciation a commemorative box of Lorna Doone cookies.
And as for everyone else here today if you want Lorna Doone cookies, go give blood.