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Listening

I was honored to receive the 2010 President's Medal at the annual fundraising gala for Massasoit College.  Upon receiving the award, here's what I had to say…

The business I'm in has forced me to be a pretty effective listener, a guy who keenly observes any scene I'm in.  And with practice I am improving.  We can all develop "richness" in our lives when we recognize the ability to tune into our own biological antennae.  God made sure that along with the rest of the "standard equipment" we come with, we have a brain and just as importantly a heart, each delivered from the factory marked "ready to receive."

My profession has afforded me many gifts.  Chief among them is the chance to connect with folks of all backgrounds in an honest, thoughtful and satisfying way.  I get to ask questions of the famous and the not-so famous.  I am there to listen to people's problems, gripes, desires, awful jokes (and they get many more groan inducing puns from me), their dreams, plans and fears.   But it's not always the stuff of great depth.  Sometimes, I'll hear about where to get the best cup of coffee, or about the worst movie ever produced, or who might serve up the finest Greek salad in Brockton.  (I nodded with affection at the owner of Christo's Restaurant, "The King of the Greek Salad."  Christo is a previous Massasoit honoree and does indeed create the finest salad around).

I've been a focused listener for many years because just to survive on-air, one has to pay attention.  Like many of us here tonight, I've dedicated a large portion of my time to improving my "on the job" skills---in my case, the art of listening intently to others, staying sharp when the light goes on.

I have cultivated the gift and it has done me well.  I get to do that which I've always wanted.  My goals in broadcasting have so far been met and the future looks bright.  The only flaw in the master plan is that along the way, I've turned the volume down when removing the headsets and standing away from the microphone.  It has taken me some years and some challenging yet crucial introspection to realize that it's just as important to listen to that inner voice as it is to key in on the voices out there.  It's a big noise filled world with quite the diverse audience.

Some refer to it the inner voice as intuition.  I'm most comfortable referring to it as soul.   When we turn the power up and tune into that built-in radio sign, when the static clears and we understand what it means to quiet down and really listen, wonderful things can happen.  They're often subtle and rarely immediate, but they're among the most satisfying of moments.  It's that tuned-in, connected feeling you get when you hear that a neighbor's son has been deployed overseas; when your daughter announces to you that her boyfriend (the one you like) has popped the question; when a baby arrives, truly a five-star miracle in anyone's book.  It's listening to the voice that gently urges you to pay more attention to your mate; the sound that empathy makes, feeling the intensity of words like "I'M SO PROUD OF YOU SON" or "GRANDPA IS PRETTY SICK" or "I LOVE YOU.  When you really start listening, you really begin to feel it.  At first it may be frightening, but it gets easier and you'll learn to trust and eventually welcome it.  It's really listening to the co-worker who does nothing but whine, discovering that much of his carping might be due to the fact that his marriage is in on the rocks.  It's acknowledging the pain felt by a fellow human being---be it a friend, family member, or a stranger – and empathizing with them because now, maybe for the first time in your life, you're officially tuned in.  And the connection is static free.

As I appear before you to accept this prestigious award, and I am deeply and humbly touched, I recall a warm spring evening less than a mile from here on the Massasoit campus.  In receiving an honorary degree that night I, along with fellow recipients, was invited to sit on stage for the entire ceremony.  I had the chance to listen to the speakers, to hear from some of the student body, to clearly focus on the faces of each and every graduating student who passed before us on the stage.  What did I glean?  I learned that each and every student had a narrative that meant something special to them and their families.  They all arrived at this precise moment on different paths---some had transferred to Massasoit from other schools; some were war veterans; many were working full time while getting their quality education.  Some were disabled, others the children of divorce.  There were those with means, others hovering near the poverty line.

The gift of listening that I've worked so hard to develop in my professional life served me well that night.  I felt their pride, their joy, their sense of accomplishment.  These weren't strangers in their caps and gowns---they were fellow people whose experiences mirrored mine and all of us---good times, down times, accomplishment, disappointment…all the stuff that life is made of.

I've been blessed with opportunity.  I'm also quite thankful for the insight that has been a companion on this journey.  May the "On the Air" light of understanding shine brightly in your lives as it has in mine.  Listening matters.  I thank you for doing so.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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