The Qualities It Takes
Following is the text of 1979 Scholar Henri Duncan's address at
the Byrnes Foundation 44th annual luncheon, June 9, 2007.
F. Byrnes, Congressman, Senator, Governor, Justice, Assistant President,
Secretary of the United States. The most distinguished Carolinian
of his time.”
That is the inscription on a monument on the grounds of the S.C. State
Capital Building honoring James F. Byrnes.
Not to dismiss the importance of the political positions he held,
but to me,
"The most distinguished Carolinian of his time," that is
the special part. This man was a leader of our Nation, had endless
opportunities, but he didn’t turn his back on where he came from,
which were modest beginnings. He chose to create this scholarship
program assisting South Carolinians with a past similar to his. A
scholarship program that would become his living legacy. We,
as Byrnes Scholars, are his legacy. To me that is such an honor, yet
brings with it responsibility, a responsibility to live life in such
a way that would make Jimmy Byrnes and our fellow Byrnes Scholars proud.
To live life in such a way that makes every person that comes in contact
with us realize that there are special qualities within us – because
there are special qualities in each of us. Every Byrnes scholar was
chosen because a group of people recognized they had the qualities
it takes to be a living memorial to Jimmy Byrnes, the qualities it
takes to be the most distinguished Carolinian of their time.
To become a recipient of the James F. Byrnes Scholarship, the applicant
must demonstrate a strong academic ability, leadership qualities and
a determination to succeed in life. I’ll admit I was one
of those that struggled in the academics part. Thankfully the
Board of Directors realized that I had the characteristics and qualities
to make a difference – as they did in each of you that have been
chosen to be a Byrnes Scholar.
The qualities that made each us stand out to that selection committee
are the same qualities that make us good citizens of the State of South
Carolina or wherever opportunity takes us. It makes us the kind
of people that will make the community a better place because of the
time we spent there.
We are chosen to become Byrnes Scholars because a group of people
saw something special in us, they saw the potential we had in adding
to and giving back to the community.
And that brings me to what the scholarship means to me and what keeps
me coming back. What keeps me coming back is the people. The
people that are associated with the James F Byrnes Foundation are some
of the best people you will every have an opportunity to meet. Some
of them have held or hold key positions in the community, some of them
are business owners, some have chosen to devote their time to raising
a family – whatever path they have chosen, you will see that
they are determined to succeed in that endeavor. You can rest
assured that every Byrnes Scholar is a quality person. I know
this because of the many Byrnes Scholars I have had the privilege of
getting to know over the twenty-eight years I have had the honor of
being associated with the James F. Byrnes Foundation.
The friends I made amongst the scholars have become family to me. Even
if we only see each other one or two times a year or once every two
or three years, we are family. We know we are there for each
other – in good times and bad. There is great love and
respect amongst us. Priceless relationships were begun many years
ago and they have endured and grown.
You will hear Byrnes Scholars refer to fellow Byrnes Scholars as Brothers
and Sisters – that may take a little getting used to. Keep
in mind the positive benefits of family. I think one of the most
important things a family member can offer is unconditional love, and
that is something that you will find prevails amongst the Byrnes Scholars. It
is because of the qualities that each of us possess that provides for
that immediate acceptance and unconditional love you will receive from
your fellow Byrnes Scholars. Because each of us were
chosen to be a part of this group, this family. We all have the assurance
that our fellow Byrnes Scholars are quality, outstanding people. We
can bypass the usual filtering process we may have in place to help
us decide how close we become to the people we meet. The fact
that they are a Byrnes Scholar opens the door for immediate acceptance.
I hope that you take the opportunity to experience that – leave
yourself open to the immediate acceptance and unconditional love that
will come your way. The rewards from the relationships will be
much more valuable than the monetary awards given.