Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Beating the Odds

In 1993, as President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), I stood on stage in Tulsa, OK. recognizing the Ten Outstanding Young Americans.  The Jaycee’s TOYA program recognizes the best and brightest young people in America between the ages of 21 to 39 inclusively.  Standing on stage that night, I met a young man who demonstrated the qualities that set him apart from his peers.  John Foppe was born without arms.  John, 22 at the time, said on the stage that night, “Either God created me without arms or he created the will within me to deal with it and adapt.”  Adapt he did! 

John Foppe

John Foppe

When I met John, he was sitting on the floor behind the stage signing autographs with his feet.  Later that night, when I made a toast to our recipients, John picked up his glass of champagne with his toes, hoisted it to his mouth, taking a sip without spilling a drop.


John was recognized by the Junior Chamber for his humanitarian efforts.  While in high school he started the John P. Foppe Seminars and began an ambitious public speaking tour.  Proceeds from his events were donated to a Haitian orphanage.  When I met John he worked for Zig Ziglar as a motivational speaker and was recognized by Ziglar in the book Over the Top!

I watched John as he walked around the room that evening spreading encouragement and enthusiasm.  John said he looked at his limitations as opportunities.  Because of his handicap, he adapted and developed in other areas which could best serve him.


Today, our lake community and business leaders face opportunities brought on by this present economic challenge.  Companies and businesses face threats not seen in many of our lifetimes.  What we must remember, there is a correction with every economic cycle, and this too shall pass.  We are already seeing some very positive indicators which may point to our rise back up from this current downturn.


There has been strong participation in the Chamber’s many seminars, programs, and networking events.  Many businesses have taken advantage of the free counseling opportunities provided by SCORE and the SBA and will emerge from this situation a much stronger business.


John Foppe had every reason not to succeed in life.  He chose to meet the challenges head on and make something special of himself.  The things we take for granted have come hard for John.  On the stage that night, with tears in his eyes, he thanked God for the life he has and the success his challenges have brought him.


We should all keep in mind that the strongest steel is forged by the hottest fire.  It is through our many trials and mistakes that we learn and we grow.  We must live each day, adapting to the challenges we face, giving our absolute best…and like John, refuse to settle for nothing less.


April 5, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment