Good morning and welcome to The Inaugural Live Oak Forum. My name is Ted Burnett and I am the Founder of this Forum and today’s Master of Ceremonies. Since announcing this event earlier in the year, I have frequently been asked, “What is the purpose of the Live Oak Forum?” For me, it’s never been an easy one-sentence elevator pitch. To answer this question, I have to explain a little about my own life. After 4 years of drinking while in high school, I got sober at the age of 18. I went on to spend the next 22 years of the past 27 attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In the process, I’ve heard hundreds, if not thousands of stories told by alcoholics and drug addicts about their addiction and recovery.
I have also had the privilege to hear the personal stories of numerous celebrities in recovery from their addiction who have come to Mobile including the daughter of an American president, an Academy-award winning, Grammy-winning and Golden Globe-winning actor/singer/songwriter, a lead singer of a popular 1970’s rock band, another Grammy-winning singer/songwriter, a Hollywood movie star and more. Telling one’s story gives value to one’s life that can’t be achieved in any other way. I believe it to be true of the two stories were going to hear today.
Learning from the trials and tribulations of others is often cheaper and less painful than learning from our own personal experience of success and failure. Both can lead to growth and wisdom. Life is a journey for all of us and the road is never a straight one. We each have a story to tell, the question is will we stop and capture it on paper for our family and friends to see and read? Many of us have events from our past that we may be embarrassed of, find hurtful or that remains painful. Know that all of it has value with the right audience. I’ve spent the past 9 years writing about much of my own life. From the beginning, I tried to tell it as honesty as my own ego would allow regardless of how it might reflect on my character in the eyes of others. There’s a great freedom to be had in telling one’s story, truthfully. Personally, I have heard from people all over the world in response to my essays and films on my recovery from alcoholism and mental illness.
The Live Oak Forum is intended to be an educational and cultural learning experience. The event’s motto is growth through experience. Today, wisdom is all, but gone from our culture and the consequences can be seen everywhere. All of nature has a life cycle and humans are no different – we are born, we live and we die. Unfortunately, humanity seems to be the only species on Earth that can stop one’s own personal development. The very institutions designed to develop individuals and our society grow has a way of shutting all of us down – emotionally and spiritually. I’m referring to our own families, to the criminal justice system, education, government, the military and the many religious systems.
Seven years ago, I began participating in the World Affairs Roundtable Discussion held in a boardroom upstairs in the Fairhope Public Library. I was the youngest by 20 years. What started out as 3 different presentations being delivered during the fall, winter and spring months to some 20 attendees packed-in like sardines has grown into an event with some 50 attendees that are now held in the library’s conference room. Secretly, I have always wanted to be a presenter, but I always found myself being in the minority with my views. Simply standing up and speaking in public was nearly-impossible due to my own fears and nerves. Last summer, I joined Toastmasters to improve on my public speaking skills. After giving a number of speeches and participating in almost every meeting since, the desire to create this forum entered into my consciousness as I slowly gained confidence in me.
With the encouragement of a friend, I launched a plan to create a grand event and this is what has become of it. So, here we are gathered to launch The Inaugural Live Oak Forum. I greatly appreciate everyone’s attendance. I want to say thank you to all my sponsors and to all those that have helped make this Forum a reality. Hopefully, many more will follow and the Live Oak Forum will only get better with time.
On your table, you will find comment cards and blue pens. If you would like more information about our future events put on by The Live Oak Forum, please provide us with your contact information especially your email address. At the bottom of the card is an opportunity to ask a question or two to our speakers. Feel free during the presentations to write down your comments or questions as they come to you and we will come around to the collect the cards before the panel discussion. You have an opportunity to impact our next event. On the last line, we want to know who you would like to see come speak at this Forum or what issue/subject that you would like to hear discussed. This could be someone from the area or from out of town.
To the left of me is our first speaker: Aaron Beam. To the left of Aaron is our second speaker: Eric Nager.
Ground rules: I want everyone to feel at home. If you’re hungry, feel free to get up and make yourself another plate. If you need to go to the rest room, by all means go. If you’re uncomfortable where you’re sitting figure out how to get comfortable. If you need to leave early there will be a pause between our two speakers. Lastly, out of courtesy to our speakers and guests, I would appreciate it if you would mute your phones or put in airplane mode.
Our first speaker is Aaron Beam. Aaron was born and raised in Bossier City, LA. He was a co-founder and first CFO of HealthSouth Corporation based in Birmingham, Alabama. Aaron is married to his wife, Phyllis, of 45 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Louisiana State University and he later got an associate’s degree in Turf Management in Faulkner State Junior College, all of which he will soon explain.
Our second speaker is Eric Nager. He grew up on the Eastern Shore where he attended Fairhope High School. Eric works as an Investment Advisor Representative with his brother, Terry, at Southern Capital Services and Chess coach of Bayside Academy, in Daphne, AL. He is married to his wife, Sandy and they have two children. Eric holds an MBA from the University of South Alabama and a Master’s degree in History from Harvard University.
I want to say thank you to all of you for attending the Inaugural Live Oak Forum. I also want to say thank you to my sponsors: Dr. Bernie Scott with Baldwin Eye Clinic, Billy J. Brown – for the video photography, Color by Will Brown – for this floral arrangement, Chris Myers, Photography by Antonio and our host, The Historic Holiday Inn in downtown Mobile. This forum is adjourned.
We will begin the Forum with an invocation by Father Matthew O’Connor of Christ the King Catholic Church, in Daphne. Remain sitting.
The Live Oak Forum
April 22, 2016