Today I am attending my first Michigan Bankers Association “Bank Management and Directors Conference” at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, MI.

I know, exciting stuff!

But I heard the best story this morning. One of our speakers, Eugene Ludwig (former US Comptroller of the Currency) shared a great story about one of the greatest speeches of all time. He told the story of a Mississippi Legislator named Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr. He served in the Mississippi Legislature in the 1950’s and during this time there was a big push to limit the production of whiskey in the state.

Now, Sweat campaigned on the message that he would never shy away from the tough issues and that he wouldn’t be afraid of speaking his mind on behalf of his constituents. The problem with the limitation of whiskey was that the issue was polling around 50/50. It was a no win situation.

So he didn’t say anything and avoided the issue for month until he was forced to speak on the subject on the floor when it came up for a vote. He was asked by a member of the opposing party what he thought about prohibiting whiskey production, and this is what he said:

My friends,

I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But;

If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise!

I hope someday I will be able to tread the middle as carefully Soggy Sweat did! 😉

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