Pierre Theriot's Letter to the Editor on 2009-2010 Class Graduation
On June 10, 2010 the Leadership Tangipahoa Class of 2010 gathered at the Tangipahoa Parish School Board office for theirGraduation Ceremony. The closing of the 2010 Leadership Tangipahoa year was a bitter-sweet end to a yearlong journey of monthly gatherings. Each and every session was generally felt to be an eye-opening experience which offered new insight into the many aspects of our Parish. We started out the year with most of the classmates not knowing each other and furthermore not knowing exactly what to expect about the program. We have come away with promising beginnings to enduring friendships. It was evident to all who attended the graduation ceremony that we have become close as a group. This close group of twenty classmates, in some cases, had it not been for the LT program, may not ever have met. The members of the group come from wide ranging backgrounds and disciplines. They are diverse in many aspects such as hometown, life experiences, and professions. They are educators, architects, lawyers, members from parish and municipal government, law enforcement officers, realtors, and local business owners. This diversity allowed us to learn and share with one another over the course of the year. Despite the diversity, there were found to be several similarities in the group. The members are and will be the future “movers and shakers of the community”. Most, if not all, members are heavily involved in community based activities that go beyond the normal forty hour work week. There are several members of various civic organizations, non profits, members of the chamber of commerce, festival boards, church groups and various commissions and committees. The bottom line to all of this is that we have found that we love Tangipahoa Parish. We live here; this is our home.
The ceremony began with a welcome and introduction by Emily McKneely. Emily is the Chairperson of the Leadership Tangipahoa Board of Trustees and has shared many of the experiences with the class throughout the year. Following her warm introduction, was an Invocation by Dawson Primes, Pledge of Allegiance by Stacey Neal and recognition of special guests by Dot Lavigne. Ms. Lavigne also provided an introduction to our keynote speaker Sgt. Brad McKee. Sgt. McKee, a young leader in his own right, shared a number of personal experiences which he believes has shaped his direction in becoming who he is today. He has served 4 years on Active duty in the United States Marine Corps, two years as a Scout Sniper, and two tours of duty to Iraq. Also, as part of his Disposable Heroes project, he recently ran 100 miles in 30 hours to raise awareness for Wounded and Fallen Heroes.
Following Sgt. McKee’s speech, the 2010 elected class representative, Brad Stevens spoke about what it meant to be a part of the Leadership Tangipahoa Program. He discussed how the class does not “teach” leadership. Leadership can never really be taught, it can only be learned. All of us in the class have some degree of leadership ability. This is why we were chosen to be part of this class. It could have been because someone saw that ability in us and encouraged us to get involved with the program. The leadership program put us into situations, presented us with issues, and asked us to analyze and discuss those issues. Through this process, the leadership qualities in each of us began to come to the surface. In some cases we may have even discovered some qualities or characteristics that we did not know we possessed. Brad went on to mention the special nature of each of the sessions. These were parish government, municipal government, hidden treasures (arts, culture and history), economic development, health care, education, criminal justice, social services, and concluded with a behind the scenes tour of the State Capitol. In each of these day long sessions we saw much that was good and some that needed improvement. However, there was always one central theme that tied it all together; good leaders are usually the root of all the good things in this parish and we have plenty of each.
Brad concluded his speech with a challenge to his classmates. That challenge was to stay in touch. He suggested that the one quality that brought us all together, our active lifestyles and community involvement, could also cause us to grow apart. He encouraged us all to maintain the friendships that we have developed and keep in contact despite our busy schedules. You never know when we might need each other.
I would also like to personally thank the following groups and individuals: The Leadership Board of Trustees for planning the class, Emily McKneely (the chairperson of the board) for planning the retreat, and finally John Dardis, our facilitator and shepherd. He was excellent at bringing out the best in all of us. It was always evident that John genuinely cared about our progress and development. I would also like to personally thank my sponsors at Holly and Smith Architects for not only allowing me to participate but also encouraging me to get involved with this program. It will forever be appreciated. To anyone considering applying for inclusion into the Leadership Tangipahoa Program, just do it! You will not regret it, I promise.
Good luck to all of my classmates and I hope we stay in touch.
Pierre Theriot, AIA