9News Leader of the Year Luncheon 2008

This was my sister’s wonderful speech when she received the 9news leader of the year honor. I meant to post it last year but forgot..so here it is..:
Dr. Carrie Besnette’s remarks
April 9, 2008
9News Leader of the Year Luncheon

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Nepal, a place of mind-blowing natural beauty and harsh human realities.

A visit to any third world country provides a very real glimpse into both disparity and hope. So very poor, the average income for a Nepali is less than $200US/year.

We regularly witnessed the back-breaking efforts of the Sherpa people carrying heavy loads up high, steep Himalayan passes.

Everything by hand or foot. Nothing easy.

Yet, all around there was also evidence of investment.

Principally, that of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to summit Mount Everest along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgey.

Sir Ed, as he’s known, donated his fame, funds, and sweat-equity to build schools and hospitals throughout this impoverished region. He recognized that access to education and health care were essential building blocks to potential and opportunity for anyone, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Upon returning to Colorado, I learned that Edmund Hillary had just passed away. The climbing world had lost a king. His broader legacy will endure forever.

Like the Himalayas, we are all fortunate to live in a place of natural splendor and rugged peaks.

Colorado is also one of the healthiest, wealthiest, and most educated states, per capita, in large part due to an “import” effect where so many bring these attributes to this beautiful state when they move here.

A perplexing paradox, however… we don’t rank as well, comparatively, when it comes to factors such as personal charitable giving, childhood obesity and immunization rates, and for sending our own kids to college, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.

We might all take a page from the book of Sir Ed. Or from Bill Daniels, whose profound charitable legacy further fueled my own professional course.

These individuals cared about people and invested in children who were not their own. They recognized the power of education and access to basic health and human services.

Most of the people they helped, never met them.

The return on their investment is individual, collective, exponential, and will span generations.

I’m blessed and thankful to have had several role models. Some I never knew, like Hillary and Daniels.

Others have had a more day-to-day impact, and without whom I would not be here.

To name a few: Certainly, my family.

A very close group of friends and colleagues, a few who traveled great distances to be here today.

My mentor, Phil Hogue, who died a little over a year ago.

To the individuals who have received this award in years past–thanks to each of you for paving the way.

And, if a community can be a role model, I’d add Denver to the list. There are few if any like it. Vibrant, inclusive, “small” and connected, big and bold, purposeful, networked, action-oriented, responsible, engaged, and full of people who dare to dream big.

Looking around the room, so many of you have been part of making this city and state what they have become, and why I love living here.
Others, several we’ve lost in recent months, are also to be credited and remembered.

This City embraced and invested in me when I moved here eight years ago, and has allowed me to give back in ways I never thought possible, not the least of which is in my current role at Metropolitan State College of Denver, a place that levels the playing field for so many.

Thank you to President Steve Jordan and the incredible students and colleagues I get to work with every day.

We gather today to highlight and support the work of the Colorado Leadership Alliance. The students around the room represent our future and collective responsibility.

A few of them you now know as they are sitting at your tables. Others you will never meet.

Invest in them. All of them.

Help “grow our own,” here in Colorado, these aspiring college graduates, a diverse group of emerging leaders who will, in turn, do the same and invest in others.

To the students in the room, congratulations on your accomplishments and future successes.

I’ll leave you with a quote pasted on the wall of a Nepalese tea house. It is by an Everest Summiteer named Byron Smith.

“Life’s greatest challenge is exploring the leader within.”

I encourage you to do this, and to find mentors and role models who will help you pave your way.

Thank you.

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