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Gratitude befits the occasion on Thanksgiving

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Founding Publisher Sam Waltz

Too often, when successful leaders are awaiting their moment in the spotlight, they pay too much attention to what they’re wearing and not enough attention to the attitude they’re showing.

Gratitude is becoming, far more so than the latest suit or dress.

Aside from “the right stuff” – e.g., ethics, honesty and the related traits – I’ve come to conclude that nothing serves the effective leader like gratitude, and the humility that comes with it.

That’s an appropriate reminder to each of us as our annual and universal celebration of Thanksgiving comes along.

“I’m humbled to stand here this evening in front of this crowd of friends and colleagues,” Wilmington University President Jack Varsalona told more than 500 people gathered in June at the Chase Center to celebrate his retirement.

“I’m humbled, too, by the gratitude that you’ve expressed to me, and for me. In reality, it’s gratitude that I owe you, a feeling of gratitude that is too broad and too deep to describe. Frankly, it’s you – the people in this room – who have given me a singular opportunity in my professional and personal life.”

“Every one of us wants to be able to depart when our time is up with a sense of legacy – a sense of having contributed something that remains behind, forever touching lives and making an impact. I’ve been blessed, I think, to have enjoyed that. And I know that Wilmington University is in a position to touch lives and institutions for generations to come.”

“But, I’m merely the man who got his turn at the wheel, the man who was able to lead a championship team, to navigate what became a super-liner. And I’m grateful because it was you, the women and the men in this room, who gave me the opportunity.”

Varsalona’s remarks set the tone for the evening. He provoked adoring laughs several times with an “aw shucks, it happened while I was there, while I was in the room,” because the room was full of admirers of the retiring president, who knew how powerful his influence wason the innovative educational model he was building at Wilmington University.

Two months later, I saw another man who possessed a similar quality of humility and gratitude, Delaware State Police Capt. John Campanella, one of its top commanders, who at his August retirement celebration credited his colleagues, family and his parents, ironically just a day or two before the death of his mother, who was in declining health.

Even this month, in the days after his unfortunate passing, former Phillies pitching great Roy Halladay was remembered for his modesty, for his willingness, even desire, to give credit to those around him.

No time is more appropriate for that expression of gratitude, which is wrapped in love and humility, than the Thanksgiving season.

Even in the most difficult lives, each of us has so much for which we should be grateful. Expressing gratitude to others makes us better people.

As business people, we long ago learned that among our colleagues, perhaps even more important to their work-life happiness than the size of the paycheck, is the expression of appreciation, of gratitude, of being valued.

It’s unfortunate that for some it’s difficult to express. Each of us should be practicing it every day.

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