Steven S. Reinemund's comments from the Silver Knight Awards ceremony on May 20, 2008:
It is great to be back home again. Although I have been gone from Miami since 1966, I have wonderful memories of my years here. I am grateful to this community, and I am grateful to the public schools of this community. Most of all, I am grateful to the people who touched my life as a child and who are, therefore, responsible for who I am today.
I also thank the Miami Herald for the rich experience I had as a Miami Herald paperboy in the 60’s and for giving me the Silver Knight award. David, I salute you and your team for continuing this important tradition for fifty years.
Now, fifty years is a long time for sure. It was almost that many years ago, during my summers in high school, that I delivered text books for the county, and I remember delivering to Miami High School. Their text book room was right by the trophy case, and I remember thinking about the winners of the many awards in that trophy case, and wondering where those ancient people were who graduated in the first class of that school. Well, being in the first graduating class of Coral Park High School, I am now one of those ancient people!
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As I hold this award, I have flashbacks of that night 42 years ago when I held it for the first time. It was a vote of confidence in me by this community and it has been a source of motivation ever since. I have lived in many different places since 1966, and this Silver Knight has had a special spot in every home where I have lived.
I have asked myself many times, what makes this award so special? I think it is because it is a recognition of a very significant chapter in my life. Literally within days of receiving this award, I left my home here in Miami for a new life as a plebe at the US Naval Academy. I left Miami with an excellent education from the public school system of Dade County. I left with knowledge, or rather a head filled with excellent teaching and the academic preparation for success.
Actually, I left with much more than that; I left with a heart that was filled with love and nurturing, and that started with my amazing mother. If she were born in a later generation, she would have been the first CEO in our family. She certainly has the capability – and to this day, I get some of my best advice from her. My mother made me believe that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. She lives out her faith in God in the way she lives every day, and she always has. To this day, she offers unconditional love to my sister, my brother, our families, and me. Everyone in our family and so many others want to grow up to be just like ''Nonnie,'' as the grandchildren call her.
However, it wasn’t easy for her. She became a widow when she was 29. She had only a high school education, she had never worked, and she faced an unknown future with three young children. She didn’t remarry until late in life because, in large part, we were her projects and making ends meet was tough.
We moved here to Miami after my father died, and I was six years old. My mother found a job and worked to make our lives better than hers had been.
From the time I started school here, people stepped into my life in big and small ways to make a difference and to shape my life. Some of them are here today.
I was lucky enough to be in the first class taught by my second grade teacher, Miss Wooley, now Mrs. Virginia Wood, and she believed in me. Why would a second grade teacher put her arms around and embrace a confused young boy…. and even take him on a date with her future husband?!
In seventh grade, I ran for Student Council Treasurer and had to give a speech. Everybody who was running was wearing a suit or sport coat, but I didn’t own one. Before I walked up to the podium, Mr. Boynton, our guidance counselor, took off his sport coat and put it on me, to level the playing field! I will never forget that lesson. I didn’t win, but it wasn’t because he didn’t level the field.
When I entered eighth grade, I met Jackie Eads, a remarkable person who to this day is a role model for me. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. Jackie retired from Coral Park High School just a few years ago, after many years. I don’t know anyone who has motivated, counseled, encouraged, and unconditionally accepted more students than Jackie Eads. How important it was to me that Jackie and her sister, Judy, and Tom and Virginia Wood came to our oldest son’s wedding last year in Philadelphia.
There were others as well, like Joe Fernandez, my math teacher and friend, who went on to become Superintendent of Schools here. He taught me the importance of becoming a compassionate but tough-minded leader. Or Coach Frank Downing, who helped us all redefine what is achievable and possible when we really stretch ourselves. Or Jim Newmeyer, my high school principal, whose actions were stronger than his words: When I was in tenth grade, my mother almost died from a blood clot, and the doctor told her she couldn’t go back to the physically demanding job of being a medical assistant. I went to Mr. Newmeyer to talk to him about the situation. He immediately hired my mother as a secretary and she worked for the school system until she retired at age 65.
These stories are not meant to be a personal trip down Memory Lane, but of course they are. My point is that people in this community reached out to me, one on one, and shaped my life. And I suspect the same is true for you. We all have our life stories, and it is at a time like this that we can reflect on those special people and say thank you.
I left Miami in 1966 with a head equipped with knowledge and a heart filled with love, care, and encouragement, and I am very grateful! As I begin my next chapter in life at Wake Forest University, I am well prepared to make a difference in the lives of students because you all made a difference in my life.