Jim Kelly’s Trumpet of Freedom Speech:
GOOD EVENING…I CALL THIS THE TRUMPET OF FREEDOM
First and foremost, it is truly an honor and quite humbling to be standing here and I would like to personally thank all of you for your commitment to our Veterans and their families.
I would like to personally thank the National Veteran-Owned Business Association for their efforts to connect our Veterans across the globe with business opportunities.
Finally, I want to thank Armed Forces Insurance, CEO Kurt Seelbach, for presenting me with the award.
And I am sure you know, Kurt, that I have been a member of AFI since 1974 and if you can give my account a little discount when you get back to the office—my wife and I would surely appreciate it.
It is with great humility that I accept this award on behalf of myself and “The Unconquered” at Invictus. That said, I’d be nowhere without the support of my wife, Beth, who has stood by me for 35 years… Of course she could have married a West Point Orthopedic Surgeon who now has multiple practices… but she chose me and my Mother-in-Law has been wondering what the hell happened ever since.
As any leader knows, our success and the success of the mission is dependent upon the will and devotion of our people. So while the award may recognize my efforts, it is truly the unconquered spirit and the tireless work of the men and women at Invictus who carry the day.
Invictus, is Latin for “Unconquered”, and is a tribute to my WWII Marine Staff Sargent father and his favorite poem
In fact, he used to have me recite the first and last stanzas as a kid. The first being…
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul…
Through this wonderful poem, my dad engrained in me the tenacity…
- to be unconquered in the face of adversity…
- to be unconquered in one’s quest to perform the mission…
- to be unconquered in life, in serving your family, your country, and God.
Unconquered is what we must be as business leaders.
Unconquered is what we must teach our children—the leaders of tomorrow.
As an entrepreneur there are innumerable challenges you will face that have to be overcome and you’ll only succeed if you are committed and passionate about what you are doing. One of my favorite quotes is “Live with Passion and Give your Gift.” Passion is the driver but your gift is yourself… nobody has what you have to give… so start with that.
As with many of my brothers and sisters here… I’m passionate about three things:
- The privilege of being able to continue to serve our country,
- The pursuit of leading a better life, and
- The opportunity to protect America.
To me, these are callings. And, as many of you learned in boot camp or plebe summer—it is hard work everyday.
ADM McCraven says you want advice to success in life… “Make your bed”… Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard says you have to push through failure to achieve success.
I am not sure about that… but I do know that running a successful Small Business is hard, hard work…and takes an unconquered spirit.
So, what is my advice?
- Build a team of like-minded people and chart your course to success.
- Recognize that each member of that team is an integral part of your success… and like the gears of a watch.
- Always take care of your people… they are your lifeblood. Remember, if one of the gears bends the watch stops.
- Small business success is not a sprint… it is a marathon. Beat the drum every day and eventually the magic will happen.
How do we continue to serve? Just look at Cyber Security for one example. It touches every one of us—through our work, our homes, our banks, our businesses.
When I talk about Protecting America—the responsibility does not just lie with our troops, our military, or government. Cyber and the interconnectedness of our nation’s networks have created a new battlefield.
Responsibility for protecting this battlefield falls to many sectors—government, military, private citizens and the commercial sector. Think about recent, large-scale events… and these are just the ones we know of!
- Hacks against private industry like at Sony, Target, Bank of America,
- Against insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and hospital consortiums,
- Against Electric Grids, Energy Companies, and businesses of every size,
- And all other industries that make this country great.
This should bother us to the core.
What do we need? We need more of us… Veterans, who have served… to build businesses around our shared passion… Protecting America. (And if I know veterans, you want a crack at the Chinese and the Russians!)
But who understands this?
Those who have served, understand this passion.
This forum understands our passion.
So, who better to answer the call to serve — not just regarding Cyber Warfare but also in state and local government, logistics and supply chain, financial services, manufacturing, and automotive industries.
WE SHOULD… those here… those across the country.
Why? Because we will help those in need accomplish the mission.
We WILL help them answer the call as well.
Like a Trumpet of Freedom… your country is calling you once again.
Many have yet to hear the call of the Trumpet but we must reach them.
Robert Frost once said, “Freedom lies in being bold!”
We, who served, are the bold and when the trumpet of freedom rang we answered the call – the call the serve.
The battlefield that we fight on today across America, although unlike the distant lands and gulfs many of us served, still beckons us with that Trumpet of Freedom.
We must once again answer the call.
And what a fighting force we are!
Nothing was given… everything was earned.
What company in this nation would not want Small Business owners or employees with that DNA? I say… every single one.
Who doesn’t want loyal, dedicated, experienced veterans ready to do what is necessary to accomplish the mission?
I say to you… not many.
Those who do not recognize the extraordinary talents of veterans are those who do not hear that trumpet call and we must teach them so they can hear.
We must continue for as long as we have breath to help serve and Protect America!
Here is my final piece of advice. At the end of the day… and I’m getting to the end of my speech too!… It’s not only about business. We need to live better lives and continue to do things for others that make every day just a little better.
We need to treat each other with respect and kindness.
In Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements you make with yourself… he helps give people a good start:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t assume anything
- DO your best.
If we follow that advice… we are well on our way to a happier future… and how cool would it be if the end of the day we can all say… ”I did something for someone else because I wanted to make America a better place”
Finally, in honor of my father, in honor of all the Unconquered, and in honor of Veterans who have fought bravely for our country, I leave you with an amended version of the last stanza of Invictus:
It matters not how straight the gate,
Nor how charged with punishments the scroll,
WE are the masters of our fate,
The Captains of our Soul.
God Bless You and God Bless America!