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Today is October 20, 2019

Editorial

Be exceptional

By Michael Callahan

Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan,
Executive Vice President/CEO
EPAs of Mississippi

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend the NRECA Annual Meeting in Orlando, which is always a productive time filled with industry peers and news. And this year presented an especially momentous occasion for Mississippi, as one of our Youth Leadership Program participants holds the elite title of the 2019 NRECA national spokesperson – and he sure stole the show. 

That young man is Wallace “Bubba” Bass, a senior at Leake County High School who will graduate in May. And let me tell you, this poised, 18-year-old student brought an audience of nearly 6,000 people to its feet, applauding his outstanding presentation with an emphatic standing ovation. 

If I could use only one word to describe Wallace’s presentation that day, it would be “exceptional.” Eloquent and confident, he strolled across the stage as he shared a glimpse into his life, his family, his faith and his goals. He wove into his speech a call to action for his young peers to aspire to become responsible leaders, which was centered around a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, which states, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” He also told of his great-grandfather who worked as a sharecropper to provide for his family of 14 children and how he thoughtfully displayed his worn-out, torn work shoes as a representation of the sacrifices made – a legacy that has left Wallace and new generations of his family with the inspiration to work hard to “fill those big shoes.” 

Through his message, Wallace captured more than our attention. He captured our hearts. 

So, how did Wallace, from Carthage, Mississippi, end up center stage at the national NRECA meeting? Central Electric Power Association selected Wallace to represent their local service area in the statewide Youth Leadership Program for 2018, and during the program’s annual workshop in Jackson, he was selected by industry professionals to represent Mississippi on the National Youth Leadership Council. From there, he went on to win the pinnacle award of the program, the speech competition held last summer in Washington, D.C., where he competed against 42 council members from other states and earned the title of NRECA national spokesperson. In fact, in our 32-year history with the program, this was the third time a Mississippian had captured that title. 

For me, being there backstage as Wallace made his speech that was met with a roar of applause was an outstanding moment that I’ll never forget. I was so proud of him, our state and the hardworking people who make up our many successful electric cooperatives. And, it was also a clear reminder of exactly why we participate in the annual Youth Leadership Program – to expose our high school students to a world of opportunities and experiences. There is no doubt that the impact this program is making within our state is, well, exceptional. 

In closing, I’d like to offer a round of congratulations. First, to Wallace for the preparation, delivery, and message behind your presentation; it was exceptional. Second, to our current 2019 class of 87 students from across Mississippi; your drive to excel is exceptional. Third, to our 20 electric cooperatives who participate in and support the Youth Leadership Program in their communities; your commitment is exceptional. And finally, to the ECM team for helping organize the program on local and national levels; your work and dedication are exceptional. 

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