During welcoming remarks at the “Freedom Ain’t Free” themed annual banquet of the Surry County Chapter of the NAACP, Dr. Evelyn Thompson discussed what freedom costs.
“Dr. Martin Luther King sacrificed his life,” she noted. “Let us sacrifice our time.”
About 60 members took the time to attend the 51st Annual Freedom Fund banquet, gathering in the Jones Alumni Auditorium on Saturday night to sing, dine and pray together.
U.S. Navy Commander Cecil L. Jessup traveled to his hometown from Washington, D.C., to speak at the event.
The Mount Airy High School graduate referenced another kind of currency in his speech — grit.
“If you put grit into it, and that is hard work, you will succeed,” he said.
Jessup would know a thing or two about grit.
The Commander, who was designated a naval aviator in 1999, served with helicopter squadrons, was at one point in his career an emergency actions officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon.
He is currently enrolled in the Eisenhower School of the National Defense University and in June will receive a master’s degree, his second, in national security and resource strategy with a concentration in weapons of mass destruction.
It wasn’t exactly an obstacle-free path.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time I was the only black man in the group, and they did not believe I would succeed,” Jessup said, sharing a few ways for those in the audience to tap into their ability to succeed, to find their grit.
“Number one, when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, you’ll be successful,” he said, noting that people who think success comes easily, or choose ease over sacrifice, don’t really want success.
The featured speaker also encouraged those present to step out of their comfort zone.
“The last thing you want to do is look at life and say I wish I had,” he said.
Jessup’s third admonition involved failure.
“The greatest teacher in the world is failure. Parents, you have to let your kids fail,” he said. “They have to learn to deal with adversity and disappointment.”
He related these concepts to broader cultural issues, noting that kids where he lives in Washington aren’t equipped to deal with adversity.
“They’re quick to pull out a gun and shoot somebody. They become adversarial,” he said. “The result is jail or death.”
Jessup recalled his own son telling him he couldn’t do something because he didn’t have support.
“I need him to know that you don’t need somebody else’s encouragement to do something,” it comes from within.
“If I saw that another man could accomplish that task, it’s accomplishable,” he said. “If I didn’t I would try again until I did.”
After thanking Jessup for his remarks, branch president Vera Reynolds said to the group, “While you’re trying something different, taking a risk, become a member of the NAACP.”
Reynolds said the organization at every level needed members to continue to “fight these injustices.”
She also spoke directly to the youth, encouraging them to make a photograph with Jessup to help them stay focused on their goals as they travel through life, hopefully with grit.
“Look at it and remember it,” she said.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.