Not only is the citizenship recognition the highest, and most esteemed, honor bestowed on a local resident by Kiwanians, it is made in honor of a great man.
As that old saying goes, to have known Harlan White was to have loved Harlan White. That’s the kind of man, that’s the level of impact, this former insurance agent had on people. Not just a handful of people, not just a select group of people, but all people. Any who came into contact with Harlan White left the conversation with a better feeling about themselves and about their lives.
Kiwanis Club President Chris Newton said it as well as anyone when he painted a mental picture of the man — a steadfast Kiwanian — for whom the Citizen of the Year award is named.
“Any of us who had an opportunity to sit down with Harlan would recognize he was such an inquisitive person,” the Kiwanian leader offered. “He always wanted to know how you were or about your business or your family or things you’ve experienced. All those types of things you probably don’t make time for anymore. He wanted to know about you.”
Chris added, “Harlan was always quiet when he went about his business, but on the [Bradley County] Election Commission he stood by what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong.”
To sum it up, the longtime Kiwanis member added, “Harlan was a unique individual. Some of our younger members who did not get a chance to meet Harlan — you just don’t know what you missed.”
No truer words can be spoken, not by a man nor woman, and not about a man nor woman. The Kiwanis president’s assessment of Harlan White the man, the human being and the humanitarian were spot on.
In his living years, Harlan didn’t make conversation just to be friendly, to break the ice or to pass time. He genuinely cared about other people. He meant it when he asked, “How are you doing?” This man of conviction and moral high ground spoke from the heart and with ingenuous tone.
For these reasons, and for so very many more, it is fitting that the Kiwanis Club honor a Bradley County resident with this tremendous accolade. Judge Andrew Bennett was a splendid choice, the caliber of person for whom the Harlan White award has always been intended.
As aforementioned, the retired judge’s selection — simply put — was a good idea. But here’s another part of the Kiwanis presentation that made it an even greater idea.
To highlight a particular attribute that told the story of Harlan White the man, Kiwanians identified a variety of additional award recipients. Each harbors a component of the much beloved Cleveland resident. They include:
1. Service to Youth Award, presented to John Dixon and Suzanne Wood;
2. Humanitarian of the Year Award, presented to Brenda Lawson;
3. Youth Leadership Award, presented to Meeri Shin;
4. Golden Rule Award, presented to Teresa Curvin;
5. Patriotism Award, presented to Oscar Kelly;
6. President’s Community Hero Award, presented to Reba Terry;
7. Horizon Award, presented to Jaynese Wadell; and of course,
8. Citizen of the Year Award, presented to Judge Andrew Bennett.
Each is a worthy selection. All are deserving recognitions. And as a collective whole, they point to a man whose strengths far outweighed any perceived weaknesses.
We congratulate Judge Bennett. We salute his eight fellow honorees.
Harlan White was a good man. To honor others who embrace his values is a great idea.