Recently the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce honored citizen Ruth Burt as their 2005 Citizen of the Year. Here is the text of the speech that was made to celebrate her award:
In the play, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder, one character says that “everybody knows that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses, and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even stars. Everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal and that something has to do with human beings”. Our winner for the 2005 Citizen has that something. Not only does our winner have that something, but I believe we can all agree that our winner this year is really something.
Did any of you have a kaleidoscope when you were a child? You would point the tube toward the light and turn it and with every turn a different view was brought into focus. All the little small parts would fit into place for one unique image and the next turn brought another beautiful glass image. Our citizen this year is like that kaleidoscope. All the small parts and great characteristics fall into place to present one fine person who is really something.
The first kaleidoscope image shows us a person full of vitality, vigor, enthusiasm, and a person who has a genuine joy for life. It takes all these qualities if you are going to serve on the Vance County Youth Advisory Council for ten years and on the Vance County Housing Authority.
The next kaleidoscope image is of a person who is completely approachable. Do you know people who can always find something to be angry about? Well, our winner would pay them no attention. A positive attitude, a great personality, a wonderful conversationalist, and an over-abundance of good will combine to complete this second image. These talents came in very handy as our winner worked with the Vance County United Way as vice-president and Allocation Chairperson and on the board of directors. A four-year stint on the Vance County Social Services Board as well as serving as an officer in Vance County Democratic Party rounds out further service to our community.
With the next turn of the kaleidoscope we find a warm-hearted, considerate person who needs no self-help books to remember every day that we have an obligation to others. Our winner for 2005 knows that the best portion of a good person’s life are the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love. Our community has been fortunate to have this neighbor who is broad in beliefs and sees good will in all. As a public school teacher for over 32 years, our winner devoted much of her adult life to teaching children to become productive citizens no matter who they were or where they resided. As a member of the Vance County Retired School Personnel, this work continues today.
As the last image of the kaleidoscope comes into view this evening, we see a worker who is shrewd, keeps their edge, and as Jose Villa says, “Speaks with great moderation but thinks with great fierceness”. This person begins to build and has the will and determination to see the job through to completion. It was because of her efforts and with much assistance from the Henderson Institute Alumni Association that the restoration of the Library Science Building, one of the last remaining buildings on Henderson Institute campus, has become a reality. Led by this worker bee, the building was restored through contributions from graduates and the NC General Assembly. The museum was approved for listing in the National Register of Historic Places on November 29, 1995, and our winner continues to serve as museum director and is an active member of its Board of Directors.
Just like in Langston Hughes’ The Sweet Sticky Fly Paper of Life, when the bicycle of the Lord, bearing His messenger with a telegram for Sister Ruth “Rena” Burt arrives at 509 Adams Street in Henderson, Miss Ruth Burt will have the fortitude to send him on his way because she is “no wise tired”, and she’s got a lot more turns of the kaleidoscope before her sunshine stops illuminating us and showing us what a real SOMETHING she is. It is my greatest honor to present to you the very deserving winner of the Citizen of 2005, Miss Ruth Corena Burt.