Words Have Power

Photo: Dr. Jennifer with her husband, Dr. David Cretsinger (the day of the District Speech Competition.)

This is the transcript from Dr. Jennifer’s award-winning speech:

It’s 1985 at a Midwest regional gymnastics meet.  I’m up next on the uneven bars, probably my weakest event, with hands that are pasty with chalk and sweat.  Suddenly, I remember what my Dad told me:

You’ve worked hard.

You are capable.

You can do this.

Smiling, I salute the judges.

Words have the power to change lives.  Who in your past told you something encouraging that changed your life?  Was it a teacher? a pastor? a parent? a friend?

For me it was my Dad.

Dad was a farm boy raised in the heartland of Iowa, corn country.

He was never expected to excel in school, only pass.  He was going to be a farmer, of course.

But one person his Uncle Mike, saw something special in him.

Like my grandfather, Uncle Mike was a farmer.  In the summer, my Dad helped them in the fields.  At 13, he was the one sent up to well to fetch water.  Now this was the 1950s so he poured water into jugs, wrapped them in burlap and lugged them down to the fields.

One day Dad took a swig. “You know, if someone would bottle this stuff, i think it’d sell!”

Uncle Mike agreed, “You’re the smartest kid I know!  Maybe instead of being a farmer you should go to college and be a businessman!  Sell some bottled water!”

Uncle Mike’s words continually encouraged and helped my dad to become the first in his family to go to college.

He graduated and had a happy and successful business career (unfortunately not in bottled water! )

He taught me that circumstances don’t need to limit dreams.

When I was 13 I wanted to be Mary Lou Retton… or a rock star like Pat Benatar!

My mom always told me I was pretty.  My dad always told me I was smart.  He said I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.

Unfortunately, not everyone had encouraging words.  I love to sing, but my 7th grade choir teacher told me I probably shouldn’t!

My high school guidance counselor told me I’d make a great receptionist someday.  My Dad agreed.  “Yes, you would. And you would make a great teacher, or doctor or entrepreneur! You can be whatever you choose.”

With his encouragement, I began to envision myself with a big future.

I worked all through college and got my bachelor’s degree in three years.  By the time I was in graduate school, I was done with waitressing. I was talking to my Dad about what I could do next.

Sitting in his recliner, Dad opened the paper…. “Jenny, here’s the perfect job for you.”  The gymnastics school where I took used to take classes was looking for a head coach to run the program. Dad said, “you could apply for this!”

“Dad, that would be amazing but come on! I’m in school full time! They wouldn’t hire me!  I can’t do that!”

Dad slowly closed his paper and leaned forward…. “Yes you can!”

I chose to believe him.  I suddenly found myself in grueling interviews and ultimately, they hired a very qualified 40 year old man.

A few months later, I got a phone call.  He didn’t work out… the job was mine.  Within 6 months I had doubled the enrollment and had 10 employees. LIfe was good!

“You’re sure making that company a lot of money!”  Dad said.  He encouraged me to buy them out!

“Dad! I’m in school full time!  I can’t run a business!  How would I do that?”

He reminded me that I was already doing the work, this way I would have more control and make more money.  Dad helped me draw up a plan to buy the business name and rent the space and equipment.  My proposal was accepted.  A 21, I owned my first company.

Dad was right… I DID make a lot more money.  But he didn’t warn me about the struggles of being a boss, especially with a lazy employee.  One day I was complaining to Dad that a staff member, yet again, didn’t show up to work.

Dad told me how I should learn to handle this situation because my next business would have the same struggles.  As he pushed himself up out of his recliner he said, “Come on. I’ll show you how to fire someone!”

His words always made me feel like a could FIND a way.

Words have power, they express belief.

Words can emotionally defeat or inspire.  Even a comment made in passing can change the course of someone’s life.

My dad believed in me, but what he was really doing was getting me to believe in myself.

Maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “Wow, I never had that.  I wish I had grown up with that kind of support.” Regardless, the truth is… you have greatness inside of you!

What is your dream? What are you burning to do?

I’m telling you:

You have everything you need to take the next step.

Make it happen!

Find the right people to support you!

And remember, others depend on you for inspiration!

Who do you believe in?  Do you tell them?  You have the ability to change someone’s life.

I now have a young daughter who is a gymnast. Who knows, maybe someday she will be at a gymnastics meet, up next on the uneven bars with hands that are pasty with chalk and sweat.   I hope she’ll draw inspiration from my words, that I drew from my dad…

that… she can do this.

She may be standing there hoping, or she may be horrified by the fact that her mom is about to yell out loudly from the crowd…

“You got it girl!”

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