This was the speech given by George McNeely, President of the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative Class of 2019 in Arizona, at the graduation ceremony for the 2019 TLI cohort in Arizona.
Bishop Olmsted and distinguished guests,
First and foremost, on behalf of the TLI Class of 2019, TLI Director Cristofer Pereyra, thank you for your courage and endurance.
To paraphrase Alexandre Havard from his book, Virtuous Leadership, “Courage is the sacrifice of self for the realization of prudent and just goals. Endurance, as the essence of courage, requires a strong proactive spirit in which man’s deepest strength reveals itself.”
Cristofer, you are certainly a virtuous leader of deep strength and conviction. You reveal those qualities to the world every day through your enthusiasm and humility.
You have our sincere gratitude for your commitment to excellence and dedication to our leadership development as lay Catholic professionals.
I would like to ask you a question…what does love look like?…
Imagine it in your mind. Visualize what love looks like. Maybe it is a good friend or your favorite pet. Maybe it is an Arizona sunset or your newborn child. Maybe it is the love of your life or Jesus on the Cross.
St. Augustine described love as “It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
St. Augustine’s description paints a vivid picture of what love looks like. He paints a picture of someone who recognizes needs, rallies resources and takes actions to change or improve a situation for another. This is someone who takes the lead out of an ambition to serve, driven by the virtue of humility. This humility is an attitude that pertains not only to man’s relationship to God but also man’s relationship to man through service to others. I believe that St. Augustine was describing servant leadership.
Over the past 5 months, this year’s TLI Cohort has learned a great deal about ourselves, each other and our faith. We have been exposed to community and social topics ranging from Education, Health, Immigration and Philanthropy. We have received practical guidance on leadership topics such as Media Relations, Professional Development, Board Service and Networking. We have explored Catholic social teaching topics and what it means to be a Catholic in the Public Square. Through all this learning one lesson seems to have been an unspoken theme…we cannot be successful leaders without first being successful servants. We are called to be Servant Leaders.
Servant Leadership has roots in the words of Jesus, the Gospels and the early Church. Jesus called to the twelve disciples and said “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Servant leaders place themselves at the service of the people, the mission and the vision of their organization or community. Consider when Jesus modeled servant leadership as he washed the feet of the disciples and said “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” The call to serving willingly and eagerly out of love is clear.
As servant leaders we are called to serve and obligated to lead our organizations with a moral and spiritual compass that comes from a well-formed conscience and faith-filled conviction. We are bound to lead in this manner, regardless of impact on profit margins, revenue growth, industry awards and personal recognition. We must consider the human cost of our decisions and measure the value of our daily work on the good we do for others, not the rewards we receive.
As servant leaders we are action-oriented and care about those in our communities. We are charged with serving and protecting those in our community who most are in need. We strive to protect the vulnerable unborn child, the marginalized victim of abuse or the forgotten veteran suffering the effects of war. We serve and protect our brothers and sisters in need through our actions in the public square, with our voices, with our votes and through our prayers. This is how we impact our community and shape society for our children and future generations.
Servant Leadership is strong leadership. Communities that want to be strong and wish to remain strong must invest in and develop their high potential leaders. TLI does just that. TLI produces strong servant leaders and we are getting stronger. As our numbers increase and as the program expands, the strength of our networks will multiply. Our networks will grow stronger as we collaborate across industries and marketplaces to impact worthy causes. They will grow stronger as we reach across the political aisle to vote our faith first rather than party lines. Our networks will grow stronger as we see each other as children of God and are blind to economic, social and cultural differences. Finally, our networks, our families will grow stronger as we celebrate together, mourn together and pray for each other.
As we go out into our community to answer our own calls to action through our leadership commitments and vocations, let us remember that great things sprout from humble beginnings and flourish with faith, hope and charity. The core lesson I learned from TLI is very simple yet very powerful….God calls us to serve one another out of love, love as St. Augustine described it, with hands to help others. And remember, as Pope St. John Paul II said, “If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.” Let us go out and answer His call.
Thank you and God Bless.
Speech by George McNeely, TLI Class of 2019 (AZ)