1 year ago

McCutcheon, Swaid express their love for Alabama at Yellowhammer’s Power of Service reception

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.”

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

4 hours ago

Mayor Randall Woodfin throws down the gauntlet at Birmingham Business Alliance meeting

BIRMINGHAM — Delivering opening remarks at the Birmingham Business Alliance’s (BBA) annual meeting on Wednesday, Magic City Mayor Randall Woodfin challenged the region’s business leaders to stop being so “risk averse.”

Woodfin opened his speech with words of praise for outgoing BBA chairwoman Nancy Goedecke and incoming chairman Jim Gorrie.

He then transitioned into a call-to-action.

“Usually I would get up here and give you all some stats about what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished,” the mayor advised. “I think it is fair to say that 2019 has been a good year for many [in] your organization — individually and collectively for our Birmingham Business Alliance.”

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Woodfin advised that the BBA leadership is pointing the region’s business community in the right direction.

“And the question is: as members of this organization, are we prepared? Are we ready?” he added.

“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room that since the Great Recession… 60% of all jobs have only gone to 25 cities in America,” Woodfin continued. “You need to know that Birmingham is not on that list. So the question becomes, when you walk out of this room, are we prepared to invest in our competitiveness? Do we want to compete? Do we want to set ourselves apart and not be like any other city in America?”

“We don’t have to be like Nashville or Chattanooga or Atlanta or Austin,” he said. “We need to be the best versions of ourselves.”

The mayor outlined the road to getting to that goal.

“That is going to require us to shake off the way we’ve always done things… just based on the sheer nature of what you do, you’re risk averse. But being risk averse in this time as we move into 2020 under Jim’s (Gorrie’s) leadership will not work for us as an organization or as a city. Or for the future and present of what we want our business community to be — to attract, retain, grow and many other things we have to do,” Woodfin stressed.

“As my challenge I leave to the members of this organization in this room, that we are willing to stand behind Jim, just as we did with Nancy (Goedecke), but really be aggressive,” he concluded. “Really be the opposite of risk averse and be hungry enough to do something that’s going to be different to make Birmingham a place that attracts more businesses and for the current businesses in this community to be and remain successful.”

RELATED: Almost two years in, Randall Woodfin reflects on biggest initiatives

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Above and beyond: Regions associate honored with Better Life Award after learning sign language to serve deaf customers

Regions Bank on Wednesday honored one of its Alabama associates in a major way for going above and beyond to better the lives of the company’s customers.

In a story posted on Region’s “Doing More Today” website, the company announced Gayla Land was presented with the Better Life Award. This is the top honor bestowed upon Regions associates “for outstanding dedication and job performance, as well as exemplary involvement and commitment to the community.”

For Land, a Regions Bank branch manager in Dothan, the genesis of the award goes back to 2016. She was reportedly serving a deaf customer but wanted to be able to do so better, as communicating properly was a real issue.

“I felt there was something missing. It frustrated me,” Land reminisced. “I could only provide what I could write down. I couldn’t share the information in his approved language.”

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The Regions associate turned that frustration into a solution. Land, on her own time, went out of the way to enroll in American Sign Language classes at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.

However, her dedication did not stop there. She not only learned sign language herself but decided to strike up a partnership with the school.

“I fell in love with the deaf community and the language itself,” Land explained. “Then I told the school, ‘Let’s make a partnership to have them come into the branch for financial education seminars,’ and they agreed.”

The student subsequently became the teacher, as Land began teaching in sign language a series of lessons that cover money management, retirement, identity theft and fraud prevention. Her first group reportedly graduated earlier this year.

This is having a real impact on the lives of Regions customers with hearing impairments.

“They feel more confident in their ability to make financial decisions, and I learn something new every time they are with me.” Land advised.

Her commitment to the hearing impaired continued to be displayed Wednesday when she received the award from Regions. The company donates $1,000 in the honoree’s name to a nonprofit organization of his or her choice, and Land chose the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind to receive the money.

“They do great work providing skills and education to the deaf and blind communities,” she remarked. “I know they will make great use of the money to provide for those families.”

However, her journey is not done yet.

Land is planning to sharpen her sign language fluency by taking advanced classes.

She also used her new platform to urge others to learn the language as well.

“Don’t be fearful or feel judged. Just try to learn. Even if it’s just one new word every day,” Land concluded. “Your eyes will be opened to a new perspective, and you’ll be embraced by the deaf community because you tried.”

You can watch an almost six-minute video on see Land’s work in action below or here.

RELATED: Merry and bright: How Regions’ headquarters building lights became a holiday tradition

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Auburn’s Bo Nix named SEC Freshman of the Year, Derrick Brown named best defensive player

The Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) 14 coaches have voted Auburn University quarterback Bo Nix as the SEC Freshman of the Year and defensive tackle Derrick Brown as the Defensive Player of the Year.

The honors were announced Wednesday by the league office. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.

Brown was also named by the Associated Press as the AP’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the week.

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Nix now holds the Auburn Tigers’ freshman record for passing yards (2,366), pass completions (200) and touchdown passes (15) in a season. The Alabama native also rushed for seven scores.

Brown had a monster season on the defensive side of the ball and landed as a finalist for just about every national award possible.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Rogers’ report from Washington: The season of giving across East Alabama

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Each Christmas season, I like to highlight a few of the kind things folks across East Alabama are doing for others.

Below is a small sample of ways our fellow Alabamians have cared for each other over the past year.

In Clay County at Central High School, a teacher, Amanda East, gathered the school supplies that were going to be disposed of from the locker clean out. Those items are now set up to donate to students who need them.

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In Lee County, The Hallmark Channel is coming to Beauregard to present new homes to the 15 families who lost everything when the EF-4 tornado devastated the area.

Hallmark will also serve residents a holiday meal at Providence Baptist Church with Santa and toys for the little ones, too.

In Calhoun County, Dara Murphy of Rosa Lee Boutique organized a White Bag Project for individuals to grab a white bag and fill it up for a child in need. They are also taking clothing and furniture to 20 families.

In Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa Counties, Rep. Peeblin Warren assists 400 seniors with gift baskets.

In Randolph County, the Roanoke Police Department is holding its annual toy drive to ensure local children get a Christmas gift.

In Chambers County, the Christian Service Center collects food and toys to donate to families.

In Montgomery County, Woodland United Methodist Church/Town of Pike Road distribute food. Pike Road and Central Alabama Health Care Systems also distribute hygiene items for local veterans.

Reading these stories makes me proud to be from East Alabama. It is truly heartwarming to see our brothers and sisters across the Third District taking time to take care for someone who needs it most.

May we carry this attitude of service to others all year long.

Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas. Remember the reason for the season.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

9 hours ago

Crimson Tide’s Jaylen Waddle named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year

University of Alabama sophomore wide receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle on Wednesday was announced as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Special Teams Player of the Year.

He is the first Crimson Tide player to be named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year since Christion Jones in 2013. The honor was voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own players.

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Waddle, who was already selected by Pro Football Focus as a first-team All-American at returner, led the nation this season in punt return average at 24.9 yards per return. Waddle had 19 punt returns for 474 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77 yards.

The playmaker also returned four kickoffs for 152 yards and one touchdown this season, in addition to 553 yards and six touchdowns on 32 catches at wideout.

This comes after Waddle was one of 14 Bama players on Tuesday who were named to the All-SEC Coaches’ Team. He was actually named to both the first and second teams at different positions.

Juniors Jerry Jeudy (WR), Alex Leatherwood (OL) and Jedrick Wills, Jr. (OL) were first-team selections on offense, while redshirt senior Anfernee Jennings (LB) and junior Xavier McKinney (DB) were honored as first-team defense. Waddle was a first-team selection on special teams.

Redshirt junior center Landon Dickerson was named to the second-team offense along with juniors Najee Harris (RB), DeVonta Smith (WR), Tua Tagovailoa (QB) and Waddle (WR). Seniors Raekwon Davis (DL) and Trevon Diggs (DB) and redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Lewis were second-team choices on defense.

Waddle was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn