HOOVER – Yellowhammer’s 2018 Power of Service honorees have been described in glowing terms by their peers and observers alike. However, it was the praise of the award winners, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon and Dr. Swaid Swaid, for their state that left the crowd in awe on Thursday evening at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa.
The theme of the annual Power of Service event was perhaps best summarized by Yellowhammer Multimedia’s co-owner Allison Ross, who told the Power and Influence 50 members, the two special honorees and the crowd of dedicated civic leaders, “Thank you for believing in Alabama.”
After stirring remarks from Yellowhammer co-owner Tim Howe, who is also the editor-in-chief of Yellowhammer News, Auburn University’s executive director of governmental affairs, C.J. Hincy, took the stage to introduce McCutcheon.
“Mac McCutcheon – he’s a treasure for Alabama,” Hincy said to begin the substantive part of his introduction.
Hincy described McCutcheon’s exemplary record as a career law enforcement professional in north Alabama before delivering one of the lines of the night.
“Mac’s a veteran, he’s a farmer and he’s a pastor. So that means he can shoot, he can grow and he can preach. That’s about as Alabama as it gets,” Hincy joked.
Hincy described the speaker’s well-respected leadership, including his “even-handed approach” and “workhorse nature,” before adding that McCutcheon’s best qualities are as a family-man and friend and calling him to the stage.
“We should have servant hearts”
To a booming round of applause, McCutcheon took to the microphone, immediately reinforcing his family-first mantra by telling the funny story of how his wife was the “Speaker of the Speaker’s House” and recognizing his wife and daughter, who were in attendance, for their support of his public service.
Speaking to the many elected officials in the large crowd, McCutcheon emphasized, “We should be thankful for our family members and the sacrifices that they make for us – the times that we miss the dinners, ballgames, we miss those things that bring us closer together as families for the sake of serving the public.”
— April McCutcheon (@Apeemac) October 26, 2018
After some more well-deserved recognitions, McCutcheon got to the heart of the evening, which is especially powerful in the light of the recent attempted political bombings and the horrific shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“Tim, I think you’re 100 percent right about the power of service and the human aspect of what we do as public servants,” McCutcheon said, addressing Howe. “I tell the members of the House that foremost, we should have servant hearts and we should remember that we are all in this position to serve the people.”
He added, “For me to be in a position that I’m in as Speaker of the House, my job is to serve the people of Alabama, my job is to serve my colleagues in the legislative body and to support the executive branch. And never forget that I am here to serve people. Let us never get to a point as elected officials that we forget the human aspect of what we do and why we do it.”
“The skill in him comes from God above”
Next up, to introduce Swaid, was Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-6).
In a moving introduction of his longtime friend, Palmer described Swaid as a magnanimous man equally befitting his status as a world-class neurosurgeon.
“He is about the best there is,” Palmer explained. “There are people that come from all over the world to see Swaid.”
One of the most impressive things about Swaid, who practices in Birmingham, is the faith-based worldview that drives his personal and professional lives.
“Swaid is always quick to point out that the skill in him comes from God above, much like the scalpel in Dr. Swaid’s hands, which our great Creator use to make others whole,” Palmer remarked, before telling an emotional story about a young girl that Swaid had gone out of his way to help.
“There is a joy and a great deal of wealth – spiritual wealth – in being a servant”
After the introduction, Swaid, too, took the stage to a resounding ovation, as hundreds of attendees welcomed one of Alabama’s finest to the podium.
Swaid has an amazing story, one that truly embodies the “American Dream.”
As the Birmingham Medical News wrote in 2012, “Swaid is a native of Israel, and his distinctive name comes from a custom of Christian families in the Arab world to give a son their surname as a first name, symbolizing especially bright expectations for his future. And Swaid wasn’t the only high achiever in his family. One of his brothers is the only Christian member of Israel’s Knesset (parliament), and another is an acclaimed musician.”
As Swaid explained in his speech, his “American Dream” was made possible by, and realized in, Alabama.
“When I got off the airplane in New York in 1969… I got in a taxicab and I asked the man to take me to Searcy, Arkansas,” Swaid said, while laughing. “So that tells you how little I knew about where I was going.”
“But after four years of being at Harding University, I came to Alabama, and I have been here since 1973,” Swaid continued.
He then noted that the type of love for the state that he has, has been perfectly represented by Governor Kay Ivey, who was sitting front and center for Swaid’s speech.
“And let me just tell you, this is a great community and a great state. We travel, but after a few days, I am ready to come home – to Birmingham and to Alabama. Yellowhammer does reflect the tremendous spirit that exists in this state,” Swaid outlined.
“There is a joy and a great deal of wealth – spiritual wealth – in being a servant,” Swaid emphasized, speaking to the drive behind his medical genius.
He added, while stipulating that his service was in healthcare and not business or politics, “Politics is an honorable profession in my opinion when people have the spirit of service.”
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn