Laura Windham – “Winema” (2007)

I’d now like to ask our next recipient to step forward, Laura Windham.

By now everyone here knows about Laura and her leadership talent but there is much more i want to say about this young lady.

The first memory i have of her was in the bowels of Williams Brice stadium, where she and amy were helping the red cross and the council by collecting katrina relief money from football game attendees. I stood a distance behind them because i wanted to be sure they were safe, since some unusual characters come to the stadium on game day. There was even a friendly contest that day between brice and tok and amy and Laura to see who could collect more donations. It wasn’t close. Now brice has all sorts of excuses for this. But if you watched Laura work you would quickly see why she won. I was amazed as she would approach men who professed to have nothing to donate and the next thing i saw was her forcing them to empty their pockets. Out came lots of change. This happened over and over. The council was so impressed that they asked for her and amy to pose for the official red cross check photo.

As I’ve said, no one knows what it’s like to be a president except another president. It can be a lonely, demanding, frustrating job at times. I’ve seen Laura in all circumstances and wearing all emotions, from tears of pain to laughter, fear and smiles. She smiles a lot, something else that helped her at williams brice. One of her most frustrating moments came during our ski trip. The officers had to pick a place to eat out and with teens, there are often as many opinions as there are youth. It’s probably as good a test in consensus building as you can find to ask one youth to persuade a group of other youth to pick one restaurant. And it wasn’t in the cards that night. Some changed their minds. Some absolutely refused to eat in one restaurant. Laura almost didn’t eat she got so frustrated.

I’ve also seen her face her fears, a special priviledge for any youth leader. We were climbing to the top of crowder mountain two years ago when i learned she was afraid of heights. Very afraid. As it happened, walking along the ridge on top is at places like rock climbing because you have to climb on top of boulders with sheer drops down the side. She was petrified. And when we finally got to our climbing site, our guide told us we had to first rapel down 60 feet. That drained what little blood was left in her face. But she did it and this year she came down like a pro.

One of the things that i very much admire about this lady is her passion and dedication to this program. When we returned from sea base last year she was so excited she went into a funk when we didn’t meet for a month. She even tried to organize a group trip to carowinds she missed venturing so much.

I have seen her attend activities and preside when she has been very sick. Her sense of responsibility as a leader is outstanding.

When it came time to pick a name for her, i thought of a little known fact about indians. You see many people assume all their chiefs were always male. But that’s not true. There were many female chiefs as well. One of them lived in the area where we hiked olong the appalacian trail last month, in fact, where Laura hiked. The reason that mountain was called blood mountain was a famous bloody battle between the indians. One of those who lived in that area then was named nancy ward and was a teenager who had married a cherokee warrior. During a famous battle in northern georgia with the creeks, who occupied the south then, nancy’s husband was killed. She picked up his rifle, yelled at her tribe and led them in a decisive charge that turned the course of the battle and won the war. For her courage and leadership, she was eventually honored as a chief and was the last chief woman of the cherokee female council.

So it is my honor tonight, Laura, to bestow upon you the indian name, Winema, which means female chief.


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