Lifetime achievement awards for Federal Way's grass-roots champions | Nandell Palmer

Melvin Johnson and his 12 siblings were the scorn of their community when they were growing up.

They lived in a two-room shack with no indoor plumbing.

No father in the picture. Their mother, with a sixth-grade education, worked odd jobs just to put food on the table.

Today, Johnson is a top surgeon in a big-city hospital. His siblings have earned MBAs, JDs and other degrees in various vocations.

They have retired their mother early, and she spends her time these days traipsing from sons to daughters throughout the U.S.

Every year, I attend at least five graduations on average. I cannot help to notice how those proud moms and pops feel about their graduating sons and daughters.

Some people would argue that parents without degrees tend to live vicariously through their children. If that’s the case, who could blame them?

Many of those parents had to forego higher education for themselves in order to put their progeny through top universities.

And even while they strut their stuff and beam with pride seeing their offspring’s accomplishments, at the end of the day, the spotlight will have solely belonged to the graduates. They are the ones who will have their names emblazoned onto their diplomas and degrees.

There’ll be no mention of the mother or father who worked tirelessly to make those dreams become a reality: The construction-worker husband who never passed up overtime just to pay his wife’s tuition for her doctoral degree. The wife who had to type and retype thousands of pages of papers for her engineering-student husband’s dissertation.

Who publicly acknowledges the grocery-shop man who helped with the first tuition, or the washer lady who bought textbooks and gave lunch money from her measly earnings to disadvantaged students?

That’s why I believe it is high time that these selfless individuals got the acknowledgment owed to them.

Writing to college presidents, deans and student leaders, it is my wish that these gatekeepers would acknowledge our larger-than-life grass-roots contributors with an honorary mention of their names on students’ diplomas or degrees come graduation time.

Students could choose whomever they wish to put in that slot: A mother, father, wife, husband, girlfriend, mentor, teacher, postman, or just about anybody they deem worthy to merit such an acknowledgment on their hard-earned sheepskins.

There could also be a separate document given as an attachment to the degree, with the celebrant’s particulars, denoting what his or her contribution to the student is. That document would then be given to the recipient as a lifetime tribute.

To kick off this project, I am enlisting the help of my readers to nominate a family member, friend or other individuals personally known to you in the Federal Way area or beyond.

These prospective recipients will have given everything and then some to mentor a person, putting children through school without looking for any remunerations.

I would prefer people over age 50, who have no degrees or public citations. At a graduation-like reception dubbed “I Celebrate You,” Write A Blessing Media will award 20 lifetime achievement certificates to these special individuals on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009, at the Knutzen Family Theatre in Federal Way.

There will be much pomp and pride at this red-carpet gala affair, where graduates will don caps and gowns. Thrilling entertainment from various acts, heartfelt citations to awardees from local college professors, among other things. The keynote address will be given by a noted leader.

While this acknowledgment is nothing near the real experience of getting a degree, these people will feel a lot better knowing that indeed their work for all these years was not in vain.

So let’s celebrate Papa Ron and Mama Sue. Grandma Mabel and Cousin Lou.

I await your response to put these people in the pantheon of greatness. They deserve it!

Check it out

Write A Blessing Media will present “I Celebrate You” at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road. The event is free and open to the public. Food, motivational speeches and entertainment will be available. The event is a way for the community to say thank you to its people for being positive role models, dedicated parents, wonderful spouses, caring teachers, selfless doctors and benevolent human beings. To learn more, e-mail Nandell Palmer:

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