Regardless of what speech he may have prepared, his actions said far more.
In fact, what he did exemplified exactly the type of selfless leadership the Boys and Girls Club strives to model.
What I’m referring to is the last-minute stand in that Deuce McAllister provided in the wake of Steve McNair’s untimely murder.
Answering the needs of the Club to be the featured guest, jotting down notes for his speech moments before he took the stage, while simultaneously suffering a huge loss in the death of his friend – all these things spoke volumes about McAllister on Thursday night.
Last week when I first received news of McNair’s death, I first thought of his family here in my home state. Then, I began to wonder what Ricky Hood and my fellow board members at the Boys and Girls Club would do. This was our annual fundraiser, and the organization depended on it, serving more than 2,000 children annually and at times staffing up to 70. With the bulk of the funds needed to operate the Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi coming from this event, we couldn’t afford to cancel.
Hood, the chief professional officer, Clay Holladay, board president, and other volunteers and board members quickly scrambled to find a speaker in less than a week’s notice.
At every turn, they came up empty-handed. Many of the potential fill-ins would be attending McNair’s memorial in Nashville, which would fall on the same day as the event.
Finally, an answer came back. Deuce McAllister answered his conscience. On short notice, McAllister stopped everything he was doing to come fill the shoes of a man he was still grieving.
“Anything I can do to help. I just hate that this is the situation. I’m still dealing with a loss … Steve was a friend.”
“It was a no-brainer. I was honored to be asked. How could you say no to these kids,” McAllister said as he scanned the packed Frank Cochran Center, minutes before he took the stage to speak.
McAllister reached the stage and stated, “I don’t know what I can say … you already have everything you need right here,” McAllister told the crowd of hundreds about the leadership at the club and in the community, reflected in those who spoke before him.
The most powerful moment of McAllister’s speech was when he paraphrased from the famous “destiny” quote, from an unknown author.
“Watch your thoughts for they become your words. Watch your words for they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. And your character becomes your destiny.”
The best part: he aimed his words at the adults in the room as much as the children. Hood echoed his comments later, saying, “we aren’t dealing with the same kids we were dealing with 10 years ago … this is a new day.”
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it was. These times can no longer be assumed to be honorable, safe, or genuine. Good deeds are scarce. Leadership is thinning. Innocence is gone. The untimely death of McNair and the good deed of McAllister show this to be true.
Fredie Carmichael is executive editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at fcarmichaelthemeridianstar.com.
Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star