One of the fringe benefits or some say “liabilities” of being a professional speaker is the fact that often just before or just after a speech there is the presentation and some kind of honor bestowed upon that speaker by the host organization or some other source. Sometimes University commencement speakers are presented honorary Doctorate Degrees in lieu of their fees or in addition to. Sometimes the honor is just a fancy plaque. Over the years those plaques accumulate. In Michigan I had a big box I would toss them into. Not Doctor Degrees, mind you, but plaques. When asked what he might do if he gave up speaking the late Doctor Kenneth McFarland said, “I think I might open a plaque factory.”
Here are a couple of plaques I selected from my Plaque Collection
On October 31st,1986 then Governor Bill Clinton of the state of Arkansas, presented me with a plaque which appointed and commissioned me, Art Fettig, as an “Arkansas Traveler and an Ambassador of Goodwill from Arkansas to the people of other states, the people of nations beyond the borders of the United States or wherever this Ambassador of Arkansas may hereafter travel or reside.” I was presented this certificate by Governor Bill Clinton who later became the President of the United States.
I had just been introduced to a convention audience of a couple of thousand attendees. Then, onstage I was introduced to somebody I didn’t know who read the plaque, handed it to me, the crowd cheered and I accepted the plaque, smiled, said “Thank you,” and began my presentation. I hadn’t a clue as to what was going on. I just wanted them to clear the stage hoping I could remember those opening lines of my talk I had worked hours on the night before. Bill Clinton was reelected governor of Arkansas just three days later.
On July 3 1990, then Governor Guy Hunt of the State of Alabama and Commander in Chief of the Alabama State Militia, appointed me his Aide-de-Camp in the Alabama State Militia with the Honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel and presented me with a certificate at a major convention where I was speaking that day. Again, I didn’t know the governor and didn’t have a clue as to what it was all about. I might have been inducted into the Nazi Party for all I knew. Hell, it took me months in Korea to just make Private First Class in the U.S. Army and there I was a Lt. Colonel just from walking onstage to give a speech. That was on July Third, mind you and the Governor was probably racing around to a hundred Fourth of July Celebrations with an arm full of plaques passing them out like candy apples at a State Fair prior to the November election.
Now I just wish I hadn’t thrown all those other plaques out when we moved from Michigan. Who knows, I just might be indicted some day for belonging to some subversive organization I never heard of.