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Putting the milestone in context

moe 600"When life gets hard, remember that all of the hard work that you put in will eventually pay off, and that it won't be much longer before you are rewarded for it. So Keep reaching for the goals and dreams that you create with your heart and soul and every time that you are able to achieve an accomplishment, be sure to make another goal, and another dream, so that you will never stop growing in life my friends! It may get hard for you every day, but never quit on your dreams, continue to push forward and with God's strength and a strong heart you will be able to overcome these challenges." – Unknown

Reaching a milestone is not only a time to celebrate but to reflect on the journey and grow. This 5th Annual TSD Men of Excellence Awards is certainly a milestone for us. More importantly, it's an indication of our growth and commitment to our mission to inform, inspire and elevate the quality of life of our readership and the overall Greater Memphis community.

The 2013 Men of Excellence salute also has given me a chance to think deeply upon personal trials and triumphs and the perseverance to overcome obstacles towards achievement and success. It is this sentiment that marks the underlying theme of this event and this evening.

In 2009, just prior to me taking over the reins of the Tri-State Defender, the inaugural Men of Excellence celebration was held at the Peabody Hotel. Among the men honored on that evening was my father, Bernal E. Smith Sr. It was a night of great pride and celebration for our family as my father, truly a man of great humility, was finally getting a measure of recognition for his positive impact on the lives of so many throughout this community. As significant and not known to many at that time was that he was battling stage four colon cancer while continuing to do the work he'd dedicated his life to with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Memphis.

Amongst a great group of honorees, I knew that he represented in so many ways the essence of a man of excellence, able to take life's challenges and setbacks head-on while continuing to push forward toward the goal, towards not only success but significance – true significance – making a difference in the lives of others through service.

A few short months later, I would take that spirit into the challenge of transforming the TSD as its newly named President and Publisher, while just slightly over a year later in January of 2011, my father would take final rest from his battle.

Each year since 2009, we have endeavored to allow our readership an opportunity to nominate deserving men from all walks of life and experiences, men that have demonstrated excellence in their work and commitment most times despite great challenge and obstacle.

I'm many times asked why we honor so many each year. Doesn't that diminish the relative value of the honor? And each time I respond with a resounding "no." For years our heroes have gone unsung and unrecognized, leaving our young people searching for positive role models, especially among African-American men.

In many communities, but certainly in Memphis, the place where Dr. King was lost but where so many great things were birthed, the contributions and positive stories of African Americans have been under-told and under-represented. I like to say we are simply playing catch up. The MOE Awards are designed to be numerically impressive as a way to demonstrate the vast and varied contributions of our honorees to young people, to our community and the entire world.

Some have asked about honorees that have had past challenges or issues. Doesn't that potentially taint the award and the reputation of TSD? MOE is not simply about identifying perfect individuals without a blemish or a past. It is certainly not about continuing the persecution or punishment of individuals for past mistakes. It is about identifying and elevating those men that represent the ability to make up for and recover from past mistakes to live full lives; providing examples to others that a setback is just a setup for a comeback when you commit to doing the right things moving forward.

Ultimately, MOE is a forum for telling the stories that too many times go untold. It is a vessel for sharing the contributions of those that are many times overlooked by other media outlets. It is a means of demonstrating the individual and collective POSITIVE impact that black men have on the Greater Memphis community. It is a way to recognize excellence in many forms while recording history to inspire future generations.

So it is my hope that the biographies within provide that spark that changes a life and sets at least one on a path towards a comeback, a come-up or that path from good to greatness! I can say without question that several of our past honorees inspired and mentored me towards my decision to buy the Tri-State Defender just over a month ago.

Through the Men of Excellence we endeavor to inform, inspire and elevate! I thank each of you for your support of The New Tri-State Defender, our Men of Excellence platform and certainly for your support of our honorees present and past, as these are our heroes, our role models for today's young people and generations to come.

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