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John Roy, 54, Talent Management Director, Bank of Tampa, former U.S. Navy submariner, surface warfare officer and reserve coastal warfare officer:

I want to tell you about a career that almost wasn’t. I’ll take you back to a summer day in 1988 – a hot, humid day in Gainesville, Florida. I am a midshipman in a Naval ROTC unit, standing at attention in this very long corridor that has on both sides of the walls, trophies and accolades of current and former Navy and Marine Corps officers and midshipmen who had accomplished some pretty great things. And here I am right now standing at attention, my palms very sweaty, my heart’s racing, all sorts of thoughts going through my mind. And the reason I am there is because I have to stand in front of an academic review board …. because I had failed calculus twice. Now I tell the story sometimes today and kid that I got to Calc 6, that’s because I took Calc 2 three times.

But it wasn’t funny back then. So as I am standing there, I hear the door open to the ward room and a lieutenant pokes his head out and says, ‘Midshipman Roy, get in here.’ ‘Yessir.’

I walked into the ward room - another big room with lots of plaques on the walls. But the most imposing figure was - as I stood at attention in front of a long oak table and a Navy 06 at the other end of it – a real burly guy, Vietnam veteran, survived a plane crash and he’s looking at me sternly, flanked by a couple of lieutenants and a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel.

So, of course I am just standing there waiting for the questions they start peppering me with: ‘What’s going on, Roy? What are you doing? Are you applying yourself? Are you capable? Do you think you deserve to be here?’

And I am questioning in my mind am I worthy of all the stuff that I had seen in those hallways? Of the officers who had served honorably in front of me. And as I am nervous and I and shaking a little bit, the captain who I respect immensely, pulls his glasses down after he looked at my paperwork, picks them back up, he says ‘Roy, you can do this. I see the potential in you. I need you to dig deep. I need you to apply yourself. Now get out of here.’ And I said, ‘Yes sir.’ I turned and I walked out.

At that point, I had to make a very stark decision in my own mind. And that was I had to anything to survive Calc 2. I had a lot to think about. I was a nontraditional student and for me there was no other option. But I did apply myself and I made a career of it.

And I look back now and I realize I had a very successful career and I helped shape future Navy and Marine Corps officers after that.

Why do I tell you the story? Because I think each one of us, whether we served in the military, served in public service or served our families, we need to recognize that whether somebody tells us we are worthy or we have potential, is irrelevant. We each need to look deep down in ourselves and know we are worthy and we are capable and we can accomplish great things.

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