Know Who You Want to Be

For the past few months, I have been planning to write a publisher’s note about our “moral bucket list” … and then last month a dear friend passed away, motivating me to get on to it.

In April, I read an article on The New York Times web site titled, “The Moral Bucket List,” written by David Brooks. In it, he wrote, “It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral.”

Upon reflection and after many years in the professional world, I believe that honing both of these types of virtues make for a more successful career and overall more enjoyable work environment.

A Life of Service

Tom Briscoe, a well-known, loved and respected 93-year-old Columbia pioneer, was a veteran with more than 30 years of military service — four years in the U.S. Army Reserve and the rest in the Maryland National Guard. During World War II, he served in the Army, as a medic in the Italian campaign. Later, during the Korean Conflict, he served in Germany in the Maryland National Guard.

When he came back stateside from overseas, Tom was one of 10 Black officers who refused to return to a segregated Maryland National Guard, an organization which had not desegregated, despite a presidential executive order. This protest led to the ultimate desegregation of the guard. He had the honor of being named the second Black colonel in the Maryland National Guard, the rank with which he retired.

As a National Guard Officer during the civil unrest of the ’60s, Col. Briscoe was sent to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to assist in promoting dialogue between civil authorities, community leaders and citizens. In recognition of his service during this crisis, he was awarded the Maryland Distinguished Service Cross, the highest military award authorized by the state.

Locally, he was one of the founders of Christmas in April in Howard County (now Rebuilding Together) and, in its early days, he served on Howard Community College Board of Trustees. He was active in the local NAACP chapter, was a founding member of the local Kappa Alpha Psi and had 47 years of perfect attendance in the Columbia Rotary Club.

He was also known throughout Howard County for always sporting a camera and photographing all major events and activities.

Tom was inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame; and at the 98th Congress, his record of volunteer services was presented on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and recorded in the Congressional Record. He also received the Howard County Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, due to the extent of his volunteer service to more than 20 service organizations, dating back to his teenage volunteer service with the Red Cross.

In addition, the NAACP honored Tom at its 4th Annual Life Membership Gala in 1999, and he was an honoree at the 29th Annual Howard County NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet in 2008.

Tribute to a Kind Soul

For the funeral, I was given the honor of writing the eulogy for my friend. Tom was someone who had become a part of my family during the past decade and with whom I was dedicating more of my time and energy.

But it was an honor to know Tom, someone who had many lessons and experiences to share. These are some excerpts of the eulogy virtues that I want to share as a tribute to a rare individual.

“Over the years, Tom has been known by many names: Tom, Thomas, Herman, Col. Briscoe, Bris, Mr. Briscoe, son, husband, father, grandfather, Rotarian, Brother Tom, and to many, friend. But he has also been known as a gentleman, a gentle man, a leader, a philanthropist, a kind soul, a positive influence, a veteran, a distinguished hero, an achiever, a prolific photographer, an activist, a peacemaker, a hard worker, fair and kind, a humanitarian, a faithful individual.

“Not long ago, one of Tom’s friends and I were joking that it takes a village to take care of Tom. But in reality, throughout his 93 years, Tom created a village of people who loved and respected him and wanted to befriend him in any way they could. We have all enjoyed his intelligence, his insight, his stories, his humor and, most of all, his friendship.

“He started volunteering as a teenager and continued up until his passing. He was very involved in many service organizations over the years — at all levels of leadership. He could always be counted on to do a superior job at whatever was needed or asked. He was known to say, “We must give back to the community the blessings we have received.” Tom was a blessing to the community and to each of us who knew him. He was one of the finest gentlemen you would ever meet.

“Goodbye dear friend. Yours was a good life — a life well lived.”

And so, to the readers of The Business Monthly, many of whom I call friends and colleagues, I hope that when our time comes, the same will be said of us. It’s time to make sure our eulogy résumé reflects the person we wanted to be.