Each December, I write this column to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas.
In the past I’ve also used this opportunity to summarize what we’ve been doing for the past year.
I’ve also written this column to demonstrate the value of your bank’s OBA membership, and that’s been especially true this year. Working in tandem with my colleagues in the other 49 states and the ABA, we’ve worked tirelessly in a unified effort to help banks survive the “Great Pandemic,” especially as it pertains to your bank’s small business customers.
The “Alliance” is not a new concept. It’s been around for a few years, but it was never really effective before Rob Nichols took the helm at the ABA. With his leadership, we’ve managed to eliminate most trade association politics, working instead to present a unified front in our “asks” of Congress.
As this issue of the Oklahoma Banker goes to press, we’re still working with both House and Senate leadership to get yet another PPP package ready for the president’s signature. Nothing is ever easy in a “lame duck” session, and this one is no exception. We think we’re close to an agreement, but we won’t know for sure until the ink dries on the next proposal.
I’ll have more to say after Congress is done and the president has signed the bill that’s eventually passed. But right now, I’d like to turn my attention to some more personal matters.
First of all, this is my last “Merry Christmas” column as president and CEO of your Oklahoma Bankers Association. My retirement date is April 30, 2121, and I will have served in this position for 33 years.
Serving as your bank’s chief advocate has been the greatest professional opportunity and experience, I’ve ever had. This is and has been my dream job since the day I was hired. You only get one of those opportunities, and my turn’s over.
I have no idea what I will do, if anything, in retirement. I’ve been working at doing something since I was eight-years old, including when I was in college and law school. Even though my body feels like it’s 112 years old, in my mind I’m still 21 – completely bullet-proof, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound and so forth.
I was recently recognized as a 50-year member of the Nebraska Bar Association. I thought to myself, was that day really 50 years ago? On top of the inevitable aging process, we’ve all had to deal with the changes in how we do business and get things done, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic issue.
As I head toward closing this chapter of my life, I’ll be very happy to watch 2021 unfold and put 2020 in the rear-view mirror. Surely this year will go down in history as one of the most awful years for the general economy since the market crash of 1929, and one of the most challenging for member banks and their small business customers. Just a few days ago, it was the 7th of December – “a day that will live in infamy.” If you have ever read President Roosevelt’s address to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor took place in 1941, you understand the enormity of that speech and what it represented. But as I move on, allow me to share with you my own version of what the worst day in my life has been like.
It was Nov. 28, 2020, just a couple weeks or so ago. It was the Saturday after our first-ever “virtual” Thanksgiving that my world stopped and, but for the grace of God, would have caused me to collapse altogether.
It was about 6:30 p.m. My daughter and two of my grandchildren, plus the family dog, were heading home after their brief visit to my house. They came to deliver a present for my wife, Paula.
As my daughter was driving, a semi-trailer truck in front of her, just over the hill she was ascending, had blown a tire and slid into the guard rail. He bounced back into her lane of travel and stopped, just as she topped the hill. The Lord Jesus Christ was in the car that night, just as she came over that hill. He held all three of my precious ones tightly in His arms as things played out. Miraculously, they all survived, except for the family dog. They have all been released from the (COVID-rich) hospital in Tulsa, and I am so very grateful they are all alive.
What’s it like to have experienced something like that as a dad? I’ve seen and litigated a lot of cases involving car wrecks over the course of my professional life. In doing so, I’ve seen a lot of wrecked cars. No one should have survived that wreck. But my precious ones did.
My parting words to you: Remember life as you know it can be turned upside down in a heartbeat. Something so precious as your child and your grandchildren might have been lost, gone in a fraction of a second, but for the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This Christmas, my last as your chief advocate, will mean more to me than any of the others. The near-death experience of members of my family helps me realize anew the importance of the Christmas spirit and God’s gift as we celebrate this holy day with our families.
And may God bless you, your family, your bank and your employees throughout 2021!