Ali has been with us now almost five years. Another one who makes me feel old. She came skipping into the crew along with her mom and that day remains one of those of which I am most thankful.
There wasn’t much of a crew then and there were a number of meeting nights when it was Ali, her mom and I. I told her to keep coming and that sooner or later others would come.
It didn’t bother her. She wore a smile so much in those days that I privately wondered if she was human. Until one day I saw her argue with Karlee and I knew she was very human.
She became vice president of program while Jonathan was president. Now Jonathan was a little on the bossy side. That may shock some of you here but he was. And one thing he liked to control were the menus for our outings. He liked elaborate, six-course meals and some disagreed with him. Bianca, a former vice president who had a fiery personality and was very strong willed, used to get incredibly frustrated at the menu discussions because she could never get anything changed. One time she left the room in tears she was so frustrated. Well one night when Ali was VP they had a menu planning session and Ali objected to one of the items Jonathan proposed. And so they began to argue. Ali didn’t let up though and eventually convinced the crew to see things her way. At that moment I knew she would do alright as a leader.
Some of you may find this incredible but at one point she did all the officer roles of the crew.
The other officers had graduated, moved or quit and so for a couple months Ali did it all. It almost broke her but she didn’t quit. And later that year the crew elected her president.
During that time she began attending Venturing roundtables hosted by the Council. Eventually, as you’ve already heard, she was selected to be the Council?s first president of the VOA. And at the meeting at which her selection was announced another officer, a guy from another crew across town, watched with a sour look on his face as her name was announced. She came up top me afterward and asked if I had noticed. And I said, “Ali, you need to know that not everyone likes the idea of girls being in Scouting. And some guys don’t believe girls can lead.” She smiled her sweet Ali smile and said, “Well, they’ll just have to get over it won’t they?”
Her eight-month tour with the Council lasted three years and you’ve already heard some of what she did. She even gave a keynote speech to the governor earlier this year on the steps of the Statehouse. I think she’s a more polished speaker than the governor and I cover his speeches. During all this time she remained active with the crew. And she will again lead, serving as the chief youth officer for our trip to the Florida Keys. Once we step foot onto the Sea Base, she is in charge, not just of the youth but also of the adults. She’s also remained active in service. Her work at Dutch Fork High School was a key reason for our success with the safety campaign there.
She remains one of the most giving and caring individuals I know. Her choice to go into nursing matches perfectly with her sense of compassion. Later this summer she will go to USC and her service, leadership and sunny personality will be sorely missed.
Like the others, there were many names I could have chosen for her. One that first came to mind was eldest daughter. Some in the crew have long suspected that I have played favorites with her. And they would be right, to an extent. Ali came along just after my then 14-year-old daughter moved out of state with her mother. There was a large void in my life and Ali’s smiles and constant happiness helped heal a major wound to my heart.
All of the girls who have joined this group have, in effect, become my surrogate daughters. And Ali is the oldest. My head wanted to name her the name for female chief. Some of you may not know this but there were female Indian chiefs, some of whom were very successful. Her leadership with us has been strong and she has led in a male-dominated organization. But in the end, I knew that what makes Ali special is her heart and the love that shines from that. Over the years, she and I always have traded smiles in our email. I’ve always thought hers was special. So it is with great pride that I bestow upon you the Sioux name Angpetu, which means “radiant.” Congratulations!