Future leaders of this nation, we live in an era where human value is judged by gender, race, country of origin, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and religion; but I have a different take on what makes a person and leader valuable. I was taught how to determine the value of a person by an immigrant from the west indies and a master sergeant in the air force from Muskogee, Oklahoma. My parents showed me how to assess the value of a person by demonstrating the beauty in human nature when they adopted me. Prior to adoption, I was discarded by a woman who was not ready for a child and a man who was physically abusive. Unwanted, unloved, and in need of guidance, my parents found me in foster care at the age of four years old.

They saw value in a poor black girl who could never repay them for their generosity. I remember my dad telling me, “Originally, your mother and I had our hearts set on adopting a little boy, but when your mother and I saw you, with those big ears and that big forehead, we both knew, that you were our little girl.” Further, my parents both told me that they watched me for a while to see if I played well with others, shared the toys, and how I treated the other children in the foster home before they made their final decision. I took from this that my parents determined my value, not by my outward appearance, my past, or what I could do for them. It was my words and actions that mattered. My parents valued the way I treated others as something important.

Once my parents adopted me, they did me the biggest favor in the world by raising me with core values like: “Nothing in life is handed to you,” “you don’t get in life what you want, you get what you work for and believe you are worthy of having,” “keep your hands in God’s hands,” “always stand up for what you believe in,” and my favorite William’s life lesson, “never start a fight but you had better dang well finish it.” Additionally, they taught me the value of hard work, loyalty, respect, and kindness.

Because of these life lessons, I have learned that in order to determine the value of a person, I listen to their words to see if they are positive and kind. I watch their actions to see of they are self-seeking. I also observe to see how they treat others. Finally, I note whether a person looks down on others who are different from them. It is important not to turn a blind eye or scoff at the poor, sick, unwanted, and disparaged. These are the attributes I look to when evaluating a person’s value.

Those who judge others purely based upon their gender, race, country of origin, sexuality, socioeconomic class, or religion reveal their own character flaws and lack of value by doing so. Who we are, our value, and our ability to impact positive change in this world relies upon our words, actions, how we treat people.

I suggest instead, we should all know our own value, as well as identify the value in others.

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