When I was announced as the new president and publisher of The Charlotte Observer, some were wondering, “Who is this guy and what might we expect?”
At the heart of the answer is this: I’m a child of the South, raised with the values of family, faith and service. I’m a man of the South, who has lived and raised his children in the goodness of this. And, yes, as an African-American man of the South, I know the darkness that is part of our story.
I’m also an Army brat who moved every two years until eighth grade, learning new places, new cultures and new countries, making new friends and seeking to become part of new communities over and over.
Those experiences, this upbringing and its challenges and opportunities have shaped me and inform what you can expect from me as publisher of this esteemed institution.
As a former military child, I welcome learning a new place, making new friends, contributing to a new community.
As a man of the South, I will seek to have The Observer reflect this rich and varied place. I hope we write the stories of our community’s triumphs and struggles. We will cover the goodness that is here and shine a light on the not-so-good. We will cover all races and creeds. We will welcome newcomers, new industries, new views, while honoring our rich heritage and celebrating our past.
We are in the business of telling the essential stories of our community, and we understand that sometimes big things are built on small moments.
My seemingly small moment came when my family put down roots after the merry-go-round of all those moves, landing me in Mr. Scheib’s eighth-grade social studies class.
One afternoon, Mr. Scheib decided to predict the future of his students. He looked down every row and named the handful of children he predicted would go to college.
He didn’t call my name.
After class I asked what he predicted for me. He looked me in the eye and told me I needed to pick a trade, for it was clear college wasn’t for me.
Now, he might have meant well. He certainly knew that my grades weren’t the best, and I didn’t speak up much in class.
But Mr. Scheib certainly couldn’t see what was in my wounded eighth-grade heart. And it turns out, he couldn’t see what was in my future.
Which meant he couldn’t have foreseen I’d become the first African-American president and publisher of The Charlotte Observer.
But I knew, even then, that I would do more than he expected of me.
I knew that I could take the darkness of situations and make the most of the goodness of my opportunities.
I knew I would choose a different path than the one some saw for me.
From my father, I would model the work ethic of a career soldier. From my mother, I’d manage on a small budget and make the most of every blessing. From them both, I was grounded in humility, faith and education.
Looking at that quiet child, perhaps one couldn’t see that I would excel in college, persuade a remarkable woman to be my wife, and raise two kind and joyous children together.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t share this story to brag.
I share this to express my gratitude to be in this place, serving this community, helping inform and enrich our democracy.
I share this one small moment to show how dedicated we are to telling your essential stories, to building community and never shying away from what is challenging.
And to do remarkable things together, even when they are difficult and unexpected.