By Larry W. Patton
On the cold dark winter night of January 6, 2002, I found myself boarding a bus with eleven other strangers. These strangers consisted of a hockey player, a police officer, a mother, a fireman, a father and daughter, an automotive executive, a secretary, a TV news caster, and myself, a professional speaker. Each of us, everyday Americans, had been individually selected to take part in this very special event. After traveling a few miles, each of us were being dropped off one by one at our assigned locations along Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, Michigan.
Over one hundred family members and friends began cheering as I stepped off the bus that night into the cold. I was full of emotions and expectations. Within 3 or 4 minutes after stepping off the bus, I looked up and saw it burning brightly in the darkness coming right towards me. I was now holding my Olympic Torch high into the night air preparing to receive the Olympic Flame. As my torch lit was I realized, I was the only one in the world to be holding and carrying the Olympic Flame.
The Olympic Flame was lighted on November 19, 2001 in Olympia, Greece. Once ignited, the flame has been kept in a lantern that accompanies the torch relay that covered more than 13,500 miles across America through 46 states in 65 days. The torch relay finished in Salt Lake City on February 8 marking the beginning of the 19th Winter Olympic Games.
I turned and began running my two-tenths of a mile segment of the Olympic Torch Relay with cheering spectators lining the city street to catch a view of the Olympic Flame and to encourage me along each step of the way. What a great privilege and honor to be carrying the Olympic Flame! For me, it was a thrill of a lifetime to play a small role in the Winter Olympic Games.
I could not help but think as I was running with the torch that as speakers each of us are like the torch. We are each carrying a flame inside of us that is burning brightly. As speakers we need to share our flame by telling our stories, sharing our insights and inspiring our audiences. By doing our jobs effectively we will begin to spark the flame in others. By allowing your flame to shine brightly, you can make a difference!