Sometimes things come together better than peanut butter and jelly. Take last week, for example.
I was invited to speak at the 20th annual Awards for Excellence in Law Enforcement, sponsored by the Gainesville Kiwanis Club and saluting members of the law enforcement community in the city and in Hall County. This event had a lot going for it.
For one thing, I have a warm spot in my heart for Gainesville, going back to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. As a member of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, I remember cities across the state begged, cajoled and sometimes threatened us for the opportunity to host an Olympic venue.
Local officials immediately began whining about the traffic problems the venue would cause them, security concerns, the inconvenience to the locals and — oh, yeah — the need for us to pay for everything. Gainesville and Hall County were the notable exceptions.
Lake Lanier was the venue selected for Olympic rowing, canoeing and kayaking. There was no whining. No complaining. The local leadership went about their work staging the events and it was a huge success. Today, the venue is one of the few still in operation from the 1996 Games. Hence, my warm spot for the area.
Also, any time I have the opportunity to thank members of the law enforcement community for their efforts to protect us from our ungrateful selves, I jump at the chance.
Those being honored by the Gainesville Kiwanians included members of the Gainesville Police Department, the Hall County Sheriff’s office, the Hall County Correctional Institute, the local State Patrol post, the Department of Natural Resources and the regional Juvenile Justice facility. I am a member of the board of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Each honoree’s supervisor spoke about how their department had selected the recipient and why. And then the honoree said a few words in response. By the time they had finished, there wasn’t much left for me to say. They had said it all.
They talked about their faith, their families, their coworkers, the satisfaction they get from doing their job and helping people and the disappointment at how we sometimes view them.
When my time came, I shared a few corny jokes (thankfully, they laughed in all the right places and didn’t arrest me for impersonating a speaker) and reminded them that, unfortunately, our society values being entertained more than being educated or protected.
Overpaid professional athletes and smug movie stars are not heroes. Not even close. They are about as relevant to the well-being of our society as crabgrass.
I was face-to-face with real heroes in Gainesville. I hope the kind of recognition that took place in Gainesville is occurring at local civic clubs all over Georgia.
You can reach Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.