As I continue to prepare for my impending surrender to the Hazelton federal prison camp on November 30, 2023, I hope that my daily journal entries show my commitment to teaching and inspiring others while I serve my 28-month sentence. These entries will become a curriculum, one that will allow me to make the best use of my time while I serve my sentence—working to contribute to the culture and teach and inspire others.
For example, I look forward to sharing one of the defining experiences that has shaped my outlook on life and success. It was the day I had the honor of interacting with President Barack Obama.
If given the opportunity, a person should not miss the experience of attending a presidential event. I’ll always cherish the privilege. Although enthusiastic, I didn’t anticipate seeing my picture in his presence on the front page of the free press. It was a delightful surprise that I cherish to this day.
I still remember the electric atmosphere of that event, with the crowd and VIP audience creating excitement. The deafening cheers and applause made for a lively and entertaining spectacle. It all took place on a scorching summer day when I received a last-minute call to attend President Obama’s visit to a local university. I had to scramble to get there and secure my VIP ticket.
As I drove to the event, a whirlwind of thoughts raced through my mind:
Why did the organizers choose me to attend?
Would I have a chance to meet the president?
Would the media ask me any questions?
What would it be like to meet such an inspiring leader?
Arriving at the venue, I was met with tight security measures, including a significant distance from the event and helicopters hovering overhead.
Once I parked, I received a phone call from one of the White House staff members. They instructed me on where I should go to retrieve my VIP ticket, and to wait for “Mike,” a man I had never met. The Secret Service agent came along with Mike. They requested my ID and handed me my ticket.
While navigating through the crowd, I observed the spectators in the upper bleachers and various sections of the arena. Inquired about the location of the VIP box, and the helpful ushers pointed me in the right direction. I was astonished to find that I had a seat directly behind where the president would be addressing the audience. Arriving an hour early, I took a stroll around the area where the presidential motorcade would pull up.
When the advance team, along with local law enforcement, arrived, the motorcade procession began. The sight of all-black SUVs with red and blue lights flashing, along with the imposing presidential limo known as “the Beast,” was a sight to behold. Secret Service agents were everywhere, ensuring the president’s safe arrival at the arena.
Once the crowd settled down, the president’s introduction signaled his entrance into the arena. For an entire hour, he shared his thoughts and insights on his goals and actions. Listening to the most powerful man in the world was not only inspiring but also profoundly enlightening. I was merely ten feet away from him, and it underscored the importance of determination and the pursuit of one’s dreams. It demonstrated that with dedication and focus, anyone can achieve their aspirations. Success is part showmanship and part common sense. Life is a precious gift, and we should seize every opportunity to learn, communicate, and surround ourselves with talented individuals. We must also lead by faith, not solely relying on what we see.
In essence, this unforgettable experience taught me that we hold the key to our destinies and the roots of our families and children. By following our hearts, minds, and faith, we can accomplish extraordinary things.
As I move through my seventh decade, as a husband, father, and grandpa to eight adorable children, I have many lessons to draw upon.
Throughout my life, no matter how busy or successful I became, I always made time to thank God and pray. It is in moments of reflection and connection with our faith that we find strength, guidance, and resilience.
In the New Testament, the book of Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This passage speaks to the importance of prayer, gratitude, and trust in God’s plan. Even in the face of adversity and uncertainty, faith provides a source of peace and strength that allows us to persevere and overcome obstacles.
As I carry this lesson with me into the prison environment, my goal is to inspire and empower others with the belief that they can change their lives, regardless of their past or current circumstances. I want them to understand that, like me, they can seize opportunities, work diligently, and find solace in faith.
In conclusion, my encounter with President Obama serves as a reminder that greatness is within reach for those who dare to dream and work tirelessly to achieve their goals. By nurturing gratitude, faith, and a relentless pursuit of opportunities, individuals can transform their lives and create meaningful, purpose-driven futures. As I embark on this journey behind bars, I hope to share this lesson and many others with my fellow inmates, fostering hope, resilience, and personal growth in the face of adversity.