When John proposed to me in the summer of 1992 in Philly between our first and second years of grad school, we didn’t capture it with a selfie, or videotape the moment. But, because John was nervous he would forget what he wanted to say, he wrote down his proposal and gave it to me afterwards. The first page is about how awesome I am, thank you very much!! The second page, he wrote about two things he wanted us to remember “as we journey through the ups and downs of life”:
“First of all, we can never stop believing in ourselves, in each other, and in our future. If we believe in ourselves, so will other people. ‘One person with courage makes a majority.’ The other thing is how we measure wealth. Real wealth is spiritual, not material. It is comprised of love, family and friends, not things or dollars or appearances. May, you are my wealth, you are my fortune. I want to grow old, but not fat together. I want our love to grow in richness and strength, year in and year out. I want to live well, laugh often, and love much. May, I want you. May, will you marry me?”
John unknowingly set the mission and vision statement for the entity in which I have been CEO of for the past 23 years. (Although John plays one on TV, I do it in real life. ) I keep copies of John’s proposal in the pockets of my organization binders, behind the kids’ school and summer schedules on the kitchen bulletin board – random places that make me pause and smile, when Every Day gets in the way of John and May. One look at his handwriting and I remember the rose petals, the boom box he bought to play background music and then returned, the summer dress I wore, and the many letters and cards exchanged when he was in Boston/Japan and I was in Michigan.
Thanks, John, for everything you are, and for being the best active board member a CEO could ask for. I, too, hope we grow old but not fat together.