Have you ever had a perfect day? I had lived 21,815 days and never had a perfect one until April 23, 2013.
Have you ever had a perfect day? I had lived 21,815 days and never had a perfect one until April 23, 2013. Some days had been normal, others full of great joy, others filled with problems, anxieties and frustrations. Maybe 10 percent had been really good and 10 percent really tough, with the remainder falling in between. My rule of life is that if I am happy 51 percent of the time, then I am doing great.
So, I had given up even the desire to have a perfect day, but I was to be surprised. For me, April 23rd 2013 was the perfect day — one that I would not change a second of.
I knew it was in the bag when I woke up after a great night’s sleep. It started with my routine 2.5-mile run and a huge breakfast of three poached eggs and oatmeal at the French Roast near my home. After my daily ritual of writing and reading for two hours each, I headed up to McKinsey & Company — the legendary consulting firm — where the Board meeting was being held for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) — the organization I had founded in 1987 in a classroom in the South Bronx.
NFTE’s mission is the same now as it had been 25 years ago — to teach low income youth how to start small businesses so they could do better in school and in life. The 300 months had gone by in a blur of activity and the organization had become a huge global success — arguably the most successful youth program of its generation. NFTE’s ideas had even become part of the international educational debate with a policy paper we had written for the World Economic Forum entitled, The Next Wave of Entrepreneurs — becoming a blueprint for advocacy of entrepreneurship education for all children.
I am proud to say that we have an outstanding board and the meeting went smoothly, full of discussion and debate. The highlight of the meeting for me was when Jordon Brooks, a young graduate entrepreneur from the NFTE D.C. program, shared with us how NFTE changed his life.
Following the meeting, we all headed over to the Waldorf Astoria for the 25th Anniversary Gala honoring NFTE’s Founder. I changed into my new suit with a matching tie, well-tailored shirt and new shoes. I felt like a million dollars.
My wonderful colleagues had kept the evening a secret from me — even much of the guest list — so my whole being was dying to know what lay in store. I took the stairs two by two, skipping with happiness into the cocktail party. I knew right away it was a special night because there was my best friend in high school in Flint, Michigan — Joe Farah — who is now one of the top judges in the state.
Soon, I felt engulfed in love and support. There were over 800 people there and it was like a collage from my life going back 25 years and more. Scott Shickler, C.J. Meenan, Kevin Greaney Mike Caslin, Lisa Hoffstein Jimmy Mac McNeal, Carolyn Glackin, Jack Mariotti, Barnabas Shakur and many other friends, family, former NFTE staff, and NFTE alumni had come from all over the country. I almost fell over when I saw our former board chairman Bart Breighner who had stood by us during some rough years in the early ‘90s. I almost cried when I tried to tell him how much his mentorship had meant to me.
The guests who joined me at my dinner table were the next wonderful surprise. On my right was John Whitehead, my mentor and friend of 20 years, and on my left was Russ Carson, the legendary private equity investor. Loida Lewis was across from me and I had many memories of her husband Reginald’s support of me and NFTE.
My date for the evening was the world class beauty Ericka Dunlap, who had been Miss America in 2004. One of my closest friends, Moushumi Khan, one of the top lawyers of her generation and a member of NFTE’s Board of Overseers, had flown all the way from Bangladesh just to be with me. Sitting next to her was the talented singer Monica Yunus, whose father Muhammad, had been my role model for 30 years. I remember thinking that I was the luckiest guy in the world to be surrounded by such beautiful, intelligent, wonderful and supportive women.
The evening’s surprises were just beginning. As the story of NFTE was told throughout the evening, one by one, NFTE graduates claimed the stage to speak about NFTE’s impact on their lives. I found their words to be deeply touching and heartfelt, forever engraved in my soul and memory.
To top it all off, NFTE’s original supporter, Ray Chambers, went up to introduce me. Ray recalled perfectly our first meeting in November 1987 and the handwritten note I had sent to him asking for a meeting to help get NFTE started. I had written to Ray the week before after reading about him in Forbes Magazine. When Forbes had described him as ‘someone interested in the education of low-income urban youth, I just knew he would be our first sponsor. I knew when I mailed the letter that 25 years would go by and I would be standing in front of a crowd of 800 people celebrating the global movement that NFTE had created. Essentially, I had seen the future and then willed it to come true.
When I was called to the stage at the end of the night, receiving the standing ovation was a moment of pure joy. I know I floored Ray when I recounted the exact time and date of that first meeting, and what was on his wall at 330 State Street in Morristown — a framed newspaper clipping of an article from the Star Ledger in 1961 about Ray’s business, a band called the Accidentals. I kept my remarks short, only because I didn’t want to cry in front of 800 people. The love and support was overwhelming.
As my parents used to say, “You know you’re happy when there’s no place in the world you’d rather be.” It was the perfect day that culminated in the perfect evening.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated since its original publication.