Thanks to all in the family for the support

Published 6:54 am Monday, June 15, 2009

By By Tray Smith
In April, I had the opportunity to spend Spring Break touring Texas with my great uncle, Ben Durr, and his wife, Carolyn. On the trip, I learned more from talking to Uncle Ben about politics while riding from place to place in the car than I did sightseeing. As I continue to recognize the people who have helped me complete my high school years, Uncle Ben, a veteran of the Korean War and the author of “Miss Emily: The Yellow Rose of Texas,” stands out as having been a truly exceptional role model who has always been willing to lend good advice when needed.
Uncle Ben is only one of the many supportive members of my family who have rallied behind me in recent years. I have often told the story about a conversation I had with my Mom in Washington, D.C. in which I said the other pages didn’t miss their hometowns as much as I did because they did not have families and communities as good as I do in Atmore. I still believe that to be true.
On Mom’s side, there is Aunt Renee, who taught me how to edit and write good papers. There is Aunt Vickie, who for years took me to school every morning. And there is Aunt Tracey who, in addition to showing up at nearly every event I am involved with to support me, also gives me great candy when I go by the bank.
The significance of the role my family has had in my life cannot be overstated. An old saying says the best way to learn is experience. I recently read that the best way to learn is through other people’s experiences, thus avoiding their mistakes entirely. From my family, I have learned a lot about other people’s experiences. I have taken those lessons to heart. My best piece of advice to peers is to find people close to them, listen to their story, and then accept their advice. In short, find their Uncle Ben.
A few years ago, I wrote an article describing a trip I had taken to Washington, D.C. with Governor Riley. There, I was asked to take notes in a meeting on agriculture. I would not have known anything about agriculture had my Uncle Tony not sat me down and described peanut subsidies a few weeks before. During that conversation, Uncle Tony continuously said “you need to know this.” “Yeah right,” I thought as I smiled and continued to listen to his description of our very complicated farm policies. Sure enough, I did need to know. That incident has really stuck with me over the years, and it goes to show that the advice of family members can come in handy anytime, even when least expected.
Of course, in my own immediate family I have benefited immensely from my own parents. They put their life on hold for 18 years to raise me. Growing up, I have gone to school with many children who have divorced parents or grandparents, parents who are too caught up in their social life or work to pay their children attention,or worse, parents who are abusive, negligent,or even incarcerated. Too often, I and many of my peers take our family situation for granted. Yet, some would do anything if only their Mom and Dad could live in the same house. If my generation does anything different from our immediate predecessors, I hope it is that we respect the integrity of marriage and raise good, healthy families. The vicious cycle that creates broken homes must come to an end. Statistics have repeatedly proven the state of a family predicts success better than race, gender or economic status.
I must finally mention specifically my own dad, who for years has sat and listened to me rant about politics even though he could have been doing something else. He has also cooked great food! Even though he may have not been seen much in the community until just recently, he has been the behind the scenes operator in my life. For that, and for the rest of my family, I am eternally grateful. I love them all.
That is the bottom line.
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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