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June 18, 2018

Dear Fellow Members,

     “It was early morning yesterday; I was up before the dawn.At which point, I found myself preparing two speeches for Thursday night’s scholarship presentations at Massapequa High School (MHS.) We at the Chamber take education very seriously. After all, as American philosopher, John Dewey once wrote, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” Call it a prolonged childhood malady – but I still love to jot down thoughts and ideas at dawn’s first blush. It has been a lifelong disease of mine. This being my last appearance as Chamber President, I suppose I could have done what many presenters do and just “mailed it in.” That is not, however, (as my son Bobby would say) “the way I roll.” The honorees deserve my best effort. You cannot imagine how gratifying it was to be approached by the father of one of the winners and asked if I had a copy of the speech. It gets better. I was approached by the head of Guidance, Paul Weber and received compliments and high grades in an e-mail from the school’s principal, Patrick DiClemente the first thing Friday morning. I write this not to boast, but to highlight how “doing the right thing” is always the best course of action. It is always best to show people you care. “I expect to pass through this world but once,” wrote William Penn, “therefore any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creatures, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

     On that Thursday night, I was proud to honor Massapequa High School students Jamie Sweeney (Peter Schmitt Memorial Scholarship Award) and Nicole Leonick (Joseph A. Basile Memorial Scholarship Award.) In addition, Plainedge High School student Cassandra Levy was also presented with a Chamber scholarship award on May 31st. Congratulations to all; your recognition was highly well-deserved and we wish you continued success.

     I take the “communication side” of my role as Chamber President very seriously. I’ve always believed the “art of communication is the language of leadership.” I have also always found truth in the Plato aphorism that says, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools speak because they have to say something!” I take great pride in being the front man for this great Chamber. I have always tried my best to bring honor to the post of President. Honor, after all, never goes out of style! It is my sincere hope that you have come to look forward to reading my monthly message as much as I have enjoyed writing them. “Words are, of course,” as so astutely pointed out by Kipling, “the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Too bad more people aren’t hooked on them instead of opioids. I am going to miss our monthly missive, but it is time to move aside to let a new voice lead the way. “And I really have enjoyed my stay, but I must be moving on.” Please join us this Thursday, June 21st as we celebrate the swearing-in of our new President, Jamie Bogenshutz. The ceremony begins at 12 noon at TASTE.

     Oftentimes, in retirement – the retiree is given a wristwatch or a desk clock as a memento of his or her time served. It reminds us that the friendships we made along the way are indelible… and just like a fine timepiece…we will carry them with us wherever we go. “Thanks for the memories…of faults that you forgave…of rainbows on a wave…oh how lovely it was.” I would like to thank my Executive Officers and the entire slate of Directors. It is nice to be surrounded by friends who lift you up and pull you towards your full destiny. May your uncommon commitment to excellence translate into uncommon favor. May God bless each one of you.

     Then, of course, there is Shelley Mordowitz. “The Wiseman” from WHLI 1100AM likes to remind his listeners “that Shelley is the top muckety–muck over at the Chamber.” He would not be wrong. She has been an invaluable asset to me over the course of the last two years. She shows fastidious attention to detail. She is an exquisite grammarian. She is fiercely loyal. Not too different from the instincts of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit’s resident foreteller and dependable Company Clerk, Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly – Shelley can predict with uncanny precision – exactly what needs to be done next. I am going to miss her sense of humor…her computer skills…her graphic skills…her people skills. She makes everyone around her better. Her work ethic is extraordinary. President Jamie is inheriting an Executive Assistant who brings both refreshing politeness and civility to work each day. ‘Tis a far better world with Shelley around and for that I thank her.

   Now, I do not know exactly where my story takes me from here, but I do intend on making each day count. I do subscribe to the credo of American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Massapequa Chamber Board Member and Allstate Insurance Agent, Robert Zabbia of the Zabbia Insurance Agency, exemplifies this philosophy. He was recently named “Man of the Year” by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This outstanding award is given to the person who raises the most funds across the entire United States. Rob and his team worked tirelessly during the ten-week campaign to raise $173,000 for blood cancer research. Rob - your work ethic, honor, and compassion truly do make a difference and we are proud of your commitment to this important cause.

   Careful now, this is not to suggest you cannot be happy or more precisely – that you need to be unhappy to self-actualize – it is merely a warning of the potential pitfalls that sometimes comes with the pursuit of the American Dream. Sometimes, in pursuit of wealth – we miss the signposts that say, “Slow Down,” or “Warning: Danger Ahead!” When (as the expression goes) was the last time you saw a “Brink’s truck following a hearse to the cemetery?” So you didn’t find that perfect house…didn’t get that promotion you were seeking…or didn’t get back that someone special in your life. Keep looking. Keep trying. Do not be distracted by naysayers. “Sadness and gladness succeed each other.” Stay in faith. “Seek the Blesser and not the blessing!” If that doesn’t work…try going on a cruise. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” That was free, Twainian advice and my gift to you.

     Now, did you hear we’ll be marching again on July 4th at the Massapequa Park Independence Day Parade? Lineup begins at 10:30am at Walker Street in Massapequa Park. The parade kicks off at 11:00am. “Blue and crimson and white it shines, Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines. Hats off! The colors before us fly; But more than the flag is passing by.”

   Before we take one more step, let me wish all of our Dads a belated, “Happy Father’s Day.” Let us not forget these underappreciated progenitors – who receive far less reverence than Moms do on Mother’s Day. No, it is not my imagination and I am not being defensive. It is just the truth. In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that U.S. consumers spent $23.6 billion (or $186.39 apiece) on Mother’s Day in 2016 while only spending $14.3 billion (or $125.92/person) on Dads. Therefore, if its cards, flowers and chocolates you are after guys…forget it. Be happy and content with the gift of fatherhood. Remember – the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee your happiness…only the pursuit of it! Now as I write – it is June 18, 2018. Tonight, my son Robert Anthony “Bobby” Barrett graduates from Massapequa High School. I am so very proud to call you my son. “May the good Lord be with you down every road you roam.” You have given us unbridled joy. “And may sunshine and happiness surround you when you’re far from home.” Remember that wherever life takes you – you will always be my son. “And may you grow to be proud, dignified and true.” I have always admired your capacity to champion the underdog. “And do unto others as you’d have done to you.” “Be courageous and be brave.” You have proven there is no obstacle you can’t overcome. “And in my heart – you’ll always stay…Forever young!” It is still June 18th. My father, George A. Barrett would have turned ninety-eight today. He was always a great source of inspiration. His funniest bit of advice (and I’m still trying to figure out whether or not he was kidding) came when he said, “Son, either stay in school or join the Police Department…because you’re too light for heavy work and too heavy for light work.” I ended up doing both. Thanks, Dad.

     You never know where you will get the inspiration for a message. My mother, Marguerite A. Barrett could make the English language dance. Even now, if I close my eyes, I can hear the inflection of her voice and the idiosyncrasies of how she put a sentence together. I see it vividly…all with the perfect tone, the perfect grammar and perfect syntax. She was a marvel. I remember one of your greatest pearls of wisdom was lifted from bibliographer, Lawrence Clark Powell, when he said, “Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” Thank you for the sound advice. I will never forget it. Please be certain that the both of you have been and always will be my heroes. Some spend their entire life waiting on a miracle. Well, I experienced one for each day you were alive. Some wish to win LOTTO, while my greatest wish is to be like you. For some, their greatest hope is to be “rich and famous,” while my greatest hope is to be worthy to be called your son. I do not believe anyone could aspire to anything greater.

   Sometimes it’s even through a song while other times it’s through a picture or a movie. Either way, I have learned to surrender to the muse. If I could paraphrase bestselling author, Lang Leav, “He lends his pen, to thoughts of her that flow from it, in his solitary. For he is her poet, and she is his poetry.” As far as muses go, I could not ask for better. I thank you.

     Well, they're calling me folks. I have but hours left in my presidency. Congratulations and good luck to Jamie. You are are going to love her...she actually likes people! My parting bit of advice is never to lose hope...no matter how dire the circumstances. Only you can control your fate and decide your future. "It matters not how strait the gate. How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul." 

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Tetelestai,

Robert R. Barrett, President