Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Charlie Palmore Award

My dad was a pretty cool guy. He was, without question, the perfect dad. But he was also a great businessman who was well-respected in his field. Throughout his career, he earned accolades and honors from the companies he worked for. For example, when he died, he was working for a company called AFFLINK and they have an award called the Global Accounts Manager of the Year. Each year that my dad worked with AFFLINK he won that award. No one even had a chance!! Like I said, he was a pretty cool guy.

Since my dad died, his boss has informally called that award the Charlie Palmore award but this year, they wanted to officially change its name to "The Charlie Palmore Award" and they asked us to come to their meeting here in DC to help present it. They wanted all the new folks who never had a chance to meet my dad to understand what an honor it is to receive an award named after him. So I spoke a little about my dad and was so touched by the emotion of all those who knew him and even the ones who didn't. We heard lots of funny stories about him and heard lots of folks tell us about how he had impacted their lives in one way or another. It was a GREAT night of memories, laughter and tears . . .

So I thought in honor of my dad's new award, I would post my speech from tonight so that you all could reminisce or learn about my dad (whichever the case may be) and could join us in feeling proud for him this weekend!

Here you go . . .

My name is Catherine Palmore and I am Charlie Palmore’s middle daughter. I want to take a second here at the outset to thank AFFLINK for inviting us to join y’all this evening and for naming this award after my dad. My mom and sisters and I are all here tonight and are so excited to be here as you honor him in this way. It means more to us than I could ever express. I know that my dad would be so touched by this and if he were here, he’d probably get up and humbly say: “Well, it’s about time . . .” But he’d say it with perfect comedic timing and a twinkle in his eye that would make everyone in this room laugh. And he might not say much more than that – he had a talent for the succinct. Unfortunately for you all, I’m the one up here and not my dad and I do NOT have that talent. I’m a lawyer with a microphone and a captive audience so get comfortable.

I think it’s so cool that there’s an award named after my dad. I think about people winning it and getting a plaque with my dad’s name on it and then hanging it on their walls. And that makes me so proud. But then I start to wonder if the name “Charlie Palmore” will mean anything to those who win the award. Some of you knew my dad so it would have special meaning to you. But I think most of you never worked with or met my dad. I hate to think that someone might have this award hanging on his or her wall and not know or appreciate all the wonderful qualities and attributes that are contained in the name CHARLIE PALMORE. So, if you’ll humor me for a few minutes, I’d like to tell you about my dad so that he’ll be more to you than just a random name on a plaque on your wall . . .

My dad was not the kind of man who waited around for orders or to see how things would unfold. He was the kind who would get up in the morning, get to work, and MAKE things happen. I remember a picture that he had in his office of two vultures talking to one another. One vulture is saying to the other: “Patience, Hell! I’m gonna kill something.” He loved that picture because he was not a believer in waiting around. If something had to be done, he just got out there and did it. No questions asked. I think that’s what made him so successful in his industry.

My dad was as dependable as the sun. He got everywhere early . . . church, the airport, the movies – it didn’t matter where he was going, he got there before everyone else did. Every morning throughout my childhood and adolescence, my dad would come upstairs to give my sisters and me a kiss before he left for work. I’d wake up when he came into my room and I was always aware of how dark it was outside. I honestly don’t think the sun ever beat him to work. And we always got the best seat at the movies . . .

He was the most disciplined person I’ve ever known. For the last few years of his life, he worked for AFFLINK out of his house. He had an office upstairs where he would conduct all of his business unless, of course, he was traveling. I was always amazed at the discipline he had. I used to always think if I had to work at home, I’d do my work in my pajamas and probably wouldn’t start until after lunch. But not my dad – he never let his comfortable or casual surroundings interfere with his job. He was up and at ‘em early in the morning. He’d shower, shave, get dressed, make his coffee, and then head upstairs. I can still see him standing at the foot of the stairs with his coffee mug, saying “Well, I better head to work so I can beat the traffic.” He could have slept in late, worked in his robe, or taken naps and no one at AFFLINK would have been the wiser. But my dad knew he was accountable to AFFLINK for his time and he was not going to let anyone down.

My dad was a man of character - he had such integrity. He wasn’t the type to blow smoke - you could take him at his word and that goes a long way with people. If he said he was going to do something, he meant it. If he said something was true, it was. Well, except when he told me that he got that scar on his lip from a bar fight, or from a prison break, or when he was sailing with his friend Chris on a boat called the Santa Maria. But other than THAT, he told the truth. He earned people’s trust in that way and I imagine that he earned a lot of business that way. His word was gold and people knew that about him. He earned their trust with every promise kept and, in the process, earned their respect.

He was the kind of man who took pride in what he did and what he represented and he instilled that pride in me and my sisters. No matter how difficult something seemed, my dad would be right there to encourage us by saying “You can do it because you’re a Palmore.” When my sisters or I scraped our knee and came in crying, he would take care of our injury and then he’d say “You’ll be ok. Why will you be ok?” And that was our cue to say “Because I’m a Palmore!” My younger sister’s last name is now Pemberton and she wants so badly to pass this “pride in your last name” thing on to her kids. But she can’t bring herself to say “Because you’re a Pemberton.” She tries but when the moment comes she always ends up saying “You can do it because . . . your mom was a Palmore!” I think my dad would be proud of that. He instilled in us a pride in our name and a desire to represent our family well. That’s really rare nowadays. But it was a way of life for my dad - we saw it displayed in him every day. Not only did he take pride in our family name, he took pride in working for AFFLINK. He was always wearing AFFLINK shirts, hats, jackets or pins and if you ever want to dredge the water hazards in various golf courses around the country, you’ll find most of his AFFLINK golf balls. He loved working for this company. In fact, when he and my mom were planning out his funeral arrangements, he specifically requested that he be buried with his AFFLINK pin on his lapel. And as you can see we’re all wearing ours today. What a statement that is about the company and my dad’s love for it.

My dad had an amazing work ethic and was a successful businessman. But I think the thing that always impressed me the most about him was how he never compromised who he was while pursuing success. Every morning, as we were getting ready for school, my dad would call us just to sing “I just called to say I love you” to us and tell us to have a great day at school. I look back at that now and think how amazing that was. And I picture him, an executive, sitting in his office and singing a Stevie Wonder song just to make us smile.

No matter his position in a company, he always had time for his family. I remember calling him sometimes when I’d get home from school just to give him some bit of unimportant news: a good grade on a quiz, a funny joke I’d heard, a question I thought he could answer – things of this nature. I’d call him up and I was ALWAYS put through to his office without question. He’d answer his phone and I’d say “Dad, are you busy?” and the answer was always “I’m never too busy for you, Darlin’.” I remember once asking him if he had anyone in his office with him and he said “Yes, but that’s ok.” And then he let me go on and on about some bit of unimportant news from my day at school. I think it’s so amazing that he was the kind of successful businessman who put his family first.

And my dad knew that life and success were more enjoyable if you can have fun along the way. He really loved everyone he worked with at AFFLINK. And people genuinely liked him and seemed to flock to him – they were drawn to his magnetic personality and that twinkle he always had in his eye. At company functions, there was always a crowd around him laughing at his jokes and enjoying his company. On the golf course, he was a much sought-after partner despite the fact that he was not the best golfer in the group. People enjoyed spending the day in his company and appreciated that he never took himself too seriously so a day on the course with him was always fun. On one particular golf outing with friends, my dad shot a ridiculously high number on a single whole. But he never lost his patience or his temper. On the next hole, he shot a bogie and calmly said “See? There’s nothing to this game.” Then he stood there with that twinkle in his eye while his friends just laughed. He always had a line like that that would crack everyone up. It’s one of the things that endeared him to those around him.

Not only did his co-workers and friends love him, his customers loved him as well. Many of his customers attended his funeral and cried along with family members at the loss of their friend. It was a testament to the kind of man my dad was – he earned their business by getting the job done and he earned their friendship by being the man he was.

I’ve always known what a remarkable man my dad was but his funeral was the most amazing reminder of that. People came from all over the country to pay their respects: co-workers, customers, bosses, friends, family – so many people who had loved my dad. It was literally “standing room only” in a fairly large chapel. I sat there and listened to person after person talk about what a wonderful man he was. And one thing that became so clear to everyone there was that his daughters, his in-laws, his friends, his relatives, and his co-workers all had the same things to say about him. He was the same man no matter where he was. What a legacy to leave.
I look like my dad. I’ve had people look at me, not knowing who I was, and say “You’ve GOT to be Charlie Palmore’s daughter.” I always was proud in those moments - I love looking like him so I take it as a compliment. But I want to resemble him in more than looks. I hope that, as I live my life, people can look at my actions, my character, and my way of living life and say “You’ve GOT to be Charlie Palmore’s daughter.” That would be the HIGHEST compliment they could pay me.

So, call me biased, but I think this award is the highest compliment this company could give you because of the name that is attached to it. My wish for you is that in your career, people will see your work ethic, your integrity, your ambition, and your fun personality and say “You know what - you remind me of Charlie Palmore.”

And I hope you cherish all that that means.


Phyllis Eddings said...

Thank you for sharing your father with us. I feel much the same about my father, although it sounds like your father was a little more outgoing than mine is. I'm reminded of the old Amy Grant song, "My Father's Eyes".