Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Is the True Spirit of St. Louis?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Is the True Spirit of St. Louis?

Article excerpt

Excerpted from Steward's acceptance speech for 2014 St. Louis Citizen of the Year

How can an African-American kid from Clinton, Mo., be standing before you with so many of the pillars of the St. Louis community? Some of you may be saying, "Clinton, Missouri? Can anything good come from there?" A disciple named Nathanael once asked a similar question about Nazareth! And frankly, many people around the world are asking that same question about our community, "Can anything good come from St. Louis?"

Well, the answer is absolutely, yes! This black kid, from Clinton, Mo., humbly stands before you because I am one of the greatest recipients of what I believe is St. Louis' true spirit: The spirit of giving. Simply put, no one accomplishes anything in life without others giving their time teaching and training us, giving of their talents as our co-workers and partners, and giving their treasures as donations to churches, ministries and scores of nonprofits.

In 1973, I put everything I owned into a green Army duffel bag and hitchhiked to St. Louis with a borrowed $300 in my pocket. When I arrived in St. Louis, I was amazed by the spirit of giving that I experienced. I had very few connections here. What I did have was a willingness to do whatever work that the good folks of St. Louis would give me. My first job was as a substitute teacher! I loved working with the kids, but it was hard to make ends meet working part-time. And then, Jim Conwell hired me to work for the Boy Scouts. Around that time, I met a person who embodies the spirit of giving, Thelma, my wife.

Most people think the World Wide Technology story is my story, but it's not really. It began in 1990 with five people in a 4,000- square-foot facility. It's a story of all those hard-working people who have served shoulder-to-shoulder with me. Today, that's more than 3,500 people around the world, including more than 1,500 in the St. Louis area.

So let's return to the question:

Can anything good come from St. Louis?

Yes, leadership! St. Louis has given me, and so many others like me, wonderful opportunities to grow. And it is because of the leaders on this stage and throughout our community. …

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