Thank you for a truly humbling award

Published 2:36 pm Monday, February 9, 2009

By By Tray Smith
Shortly after I began the page program in September 2007, my mom, with that uncanny ability mothers have at detecting when their child is upset, asked, “What’s wrong?”
Five months later, I returned to Atmore from Washington, D.C. unsure of what my role would be in the community. With the support of many friends and family, I soon discovered my niche and, Thursday night, was named Atmore’s 2008 Citizen of the Year.
The experience proves true what I learned long ago in church: God has a plan. Even though we do not always understand it, hindsight always makes sense of the “cow path” we follow day by day.
In accepting the award Thursday night, I said there is not a day I do not wake up and thank God for blessing me by allowing me to live and grow in Atmore. I meant that. If not for God’s plan, this award and the personal growth that has enabled it would not have been possible.
Many of my dearest friends, family, supporters and fellow citizens have opened up limitless opportunities for me over the past year, including the opportunity of receiving the Citizen of the Year Award. I sincerely thank them for their support and for allowing me to participate in and even lead such programs as the re-launch of the EsCoHi, the Chamber Ambassadors and activities associated with the Boy Scouts.
While I was surprised, to say the least, by Representative Alan Baker’s announcement at the Chamber Banquet, I was honored to be recognized in such an extraordinary way. Receiving the award after Chamber Vice President Lisa Reynolds gave the Lifetime Achievement Award to Probate Judge Emily Mims, who has poured years of hard work into our community and accumulated many accomplishments in her lifetime, was a very humbling experience.
It is also humbling to follow in the shadow of the 34 previous Citizens of the Year (including those named alongside another family member), all of whom have had a tremendous impact on this city and many of whom have personally inspired me. I must specifically mention Jane and Ellen Corman, who are not only close personal friends but also inspirational figures. Ellen’s remarkable service to Atmore showed that young people can make a difference.
Finally, I would like to specifically thank Adam Prestridge for opening the door to several experiences, including this column in The Atmore Advance. I would also like to thank my Mom, Dad and grandmother for being great pillars of encouragement.
Although I am still in shock, I deeply appreciate the outpour of congratulatory remarks from members of the community over the past few days. That support has been essential in everything I have done, and it has been flattering this week. There are many hardworking, deserving citizens in Atmore, and I am privileged to call them my friends.
I am planning to go to college next year, and will yet again go through the painful process of leaving my home, Atmore. However, I know Atmore will always be my home. Even if I go to a university far away, my values, my traditions, and my priorities have been shaped by the experience of growing up in Atmore. That experience will define me for the rest of my life.
Indeed, no where else in the United States would have allowed me to grow up in the way that Atmore has: by allowing someone as young as I am to participate in so many different initiatives, Atmore has allowed me to develop my leadership skills and challenged me to think about critical issues. In a world that increasingly emphasizes the importance of global values, it is important to remember that our most significant values are preserved most dearly in our hometowns. May God always bless Atmore and its people.
Tray Smith is a former page in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at His column appears weekly.

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