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From the Ground Up

Recognizing Mississippi’s “Top 40 Under 40” is one of my favorite annual undertakings. Consistent with the certainty of death and taxes is the inescapable fact that us “gray heads” will eventually be turning over the reins of leadership to younger folks. Though many of us enjoy our work and don’t cherish the idea of stepping aside, it is inevitable.

For the last seven years, the Mississippi Business Journal has sponsored the Top 40 program to recognize emerging leaders in every field of endeavor. It has been my privilege to participate in the selection process for the last five years. It is an inspiring experience. Studying the accomplishments of hundreds of difference-making young people from all around the state is humbling and encouraging. Mississippi’s future is in good hands.

It is so easy to live a “minimal” life where we do just enough to get by. It is so refreshing to know that there are young people in our community who are self-motivated to do more than the minimum. All of the young people who were submitted for Top 40 recognition have chosen to do more than the minimum required to “get by.” They are an inspiration to me.

Professional accomplishments are impressive. However, alone they are not sufficient to gain admission to this select group. No, one must do much more than just excel in the workplace. Even raising a family while pursuing a career will not do it. In addition to these worthy undertakings, one must also be involved in bettering the community in a significant way. It is a tough nut to crack, but we are honoring 40 who found the energy and the desire to do it.

Several years ago we began using independent judges in determining the winners of the annual Top 40 awards. We believe this adds an increased degree of independence to the selection process, and relieves me from having to make the gut-wrenching decisions on my on.

What new issues will these young people be called upon to resolve during their lifetimes? Will they satisfactorily resolve the problems we leave behind? We will gradually hand over the reins of leadership with no shortage of problems and opportunities for these youngsters to immerse themselves.

Poverty is still widespread in Mississippi. Any comprehensive plan to move the state forward must address the problem of illiteracy.

Our state, and the country as a whole, is plagued with a wounded health care system. We have the greatest health care system in the world, but it comes with a heavy price tag. In order to enjoy the benefits of our excellent health care system, we must find a way to pay for health care. At some point, we must decide whether access to health care is a right of citizenship or a commodity to be bought by those who can afford it.

Voter apathy is another issue that needs creative attention. The foundation of our democracy rests upon an informed and energized electorate. America has pretty much lost interest in politics, as evidenced by the paltry number of voters who take the time to cast their ballot. The result is government by minority and special interest groups. Energizing voters will be an important challenge for succeeding generations.

Will the young people we recognize in the Top 40 program, and others like them, be up to the task of resolving the tough issues of our society? I am confident that they will give it their best shot and we will all benefit from their effort.

We will recognize this year’s crop of Top 40 young people at a luncheon on Jan. 12, 2000, at the Mississippi Trademart as a part of our annual business EXPO trade show. Our keynote speaker will be the Honorable (perhaps Governor) Ronnie Musgrove. We look forward to meeting the Top 40 winners and seeing all of our friends at EXPO.

EXPO will begin this year with a “Salute to Business and Industry” kick-off breakfast on Wednesday, January 12, 2000. Six organizations who have proven their commitment to the community and their employees will be honored at the salute. Mr. Leland Speed will be our speaker. We hope you will join us at EXPO this year.

Thought for the Moment

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

— Romans 12:21

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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