On June 16th, 2002, Father’s Day, my dad passed away at 4:45 PM. I think about it every year around this time, and it’s funny that I’ve never written on this blog about it, though I’ve written in other places.

Dad - Me, Vietnam Day

One of the biggest lessons my dad gave me was also one of the last. Early in 2002, when Dad was still able to communicate lucidly most of the time, we talked about my new website, which is the one this blog is attached to. I was telling him how, with all my marketing materials, including my website, how I wasn’t sure whether or not I should put my picture on it. There aren’t a lot of black people in management positions in health care to begin with, and the percentages of black health care consultants is even more infinitesimal.

I also worried because, in the field of management, there are once again very few black people; that goes for most of the other areas I address in business as well. The only one where black people were more prominent than in other areas was on the conversation of diversity. Some people actually only know me by that, which, in my mind, says more to me about their mindset than anything else, since I never lead with it as a topic.

I felt I had legitimate business reasons as to why I shouldn’t put my image on anything. I wanted to at least be able to have the conversation, and if it had to change once someone met me in person then at least I’d have had the legitimate opportunity to present myself in front of them. This isn’t something that most anyone else would ever have to even think about when it pertained to their business, except to wonder how attractive their image might be.

My dad, the master sargeant, the man who’d won countless awards at Xerox over his 23 years of employment, who had been in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War and had traveled to at least 10 different countries in his military career, had this to say. That if anyone was going to deny me the opportunity to help them get to where they needed to be just because of the image they saw of me, a professional image where the only difference was the color of my skin, that they didn’t deserve the right to work with me, and that it was an indication of just how much they needed me more than I’d need them.

Sometimes in business, we find things to devalue ourselves in the eyes of others. Sometimes, it takes someone else’s words to help us define just how valuable we might be. That was the beauty of my dad, the master sargeant. That’s why I miss him each and every day. And that’s why I write this tribute to him today, the first time on this blog, and wish I’d done it much earlier.

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