Leadership Atlanta 40th Anniversary

Tonight over 600 alumnus of Leadership Atlanta will celebrate 40 years of outstanding programs, challenging ideas, and new relationships that changed all of our lives.

I applied to Leadership Atlanta in 1985 and was not accepted. I was ticked. How could this organization deny me after all I had accomplished in business, community service, and through numerous associations? I had no interest in applying again thinking that this was not an organization worth pursuing. It was sad how much ego and stupidity I was filled with at that time. I was talked into applying again the next year and was accepted. At the fall retreat, we were introduced to all of our classmates. At that point, I did not understand why Leadership Atlanta accepted me at all. My classmates were leaders all across the city of Atlanta. I was intimated just being in the same room with them. All of my grandiose accomplishments were not much in comparison to these inspiring people. My classmates and the programming of Leadership Atlanta changed my life forever. Next to my faith and family, nothing has had a greater impact on my life than Leadership Atlanta. My many jobs, my entrepreneurial success, awards, and achievements all pale in comparison to how my life was changed through Leadership Atlanta.

It was through Leadership Atlanta I was forced to face hunger, poverty, educational issues, criminal justice, race relations, gender issues, and a whole lot more. Because of Leadership Atlanta and Leadership Atlanta alone, I became involved with the creation of Atlanta’s Table which is part of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Atlanta’s Table inspired 150 similar programs around the world. Millions upon millions of people have been fed meals because of Atlanta’s Table. The organizing group was filled with Leadership Atlanta graduates including Martin Lehfeldt, Bill Bolling, Dorothy Beasley, Jim George, Andy Loving, Randy Humphrey, Sue Wieland, and Rob Johnson. I am sure there are others that at my advanced age, I cannot recall at this moment. To any Leadership Atlanta graduate who played a part, please forgive me if I missed your name. All of you wonderful people are heroes and a gift from God in my life.

The impact Leadership Atlanta has had on our community cannot be measured. In addition to Atlanta’s Table, Doug Hertz created a real miracle at Camp Twin Lakes and the list goes on and on. Graduates include the power brokers in Atlanta’s last 40 years. Graduates include Ivan Allen, Barbara Asher, Ed Baker, Shirley Mitchell, Steve, Linda, Cathy and Scott Selig, Tom Cordy, Ron Allen, Andy Fisher, Tommy Dortch, Ben Johnson, Becky Blalock, John and Sue Wieland, Myrtle Davis, Curley Dossman, Jim Breedlove, Elaine Alexander, David Allison, Erica Qualls, Ron Clark, Kim Bearden and I am unfortunately leaving out 2,000 more leaders across every industry, not for profit, and spiritual discipline in Atlanta and across the country since many have moved on to leadership positions in other cities. It is because of the 2,500+ graduates that Atlanta has prospered when some cities did not. So many great moments occurred due to the vision these leaders have had over the past 40 years.

I could not end this without a personal thank you to a few people I would never have met if not for Leadership Atlanta. You have changed who I am as a person and the change is a blessing. I love you and I will never be able to repay the love you have given to me. Thank you Rob Johnson, Dorothy Beasley, Eula Adams, Ann Cramer, Martin Lehfeldt, and Pat Upshaw Monteith. I had actually met Pat during her Symphony years but I really did not know Pat well until she became the Executive Director of Leadership Atlanta. Pat has done a fantastic job leading this organization and her friendship is important to me. Finally, I owe one man in more ways than I can explain. He has been my inspiration, my mentor, my spiritual guide, my drinking buddy, and my very best friend every time I needed a best friend who would do anything requested without any questions. Bill Bolling, thank you for being all of these things to me. The last 24 years have been sweeter because of your friendship.

Happy Birthday Leadership Atlanta! Here’s to 40 more years of creating the fabric of Atlanta.

Ricky Steele

Class of 1986

Best Class Ever

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