In a recent visit to the farmers market, I noted the abundance of produce and in particular one bin filled with mottled and bruised tomatoes and peppers. They were described in a homemade sign as “not perfect and pretty, but just as good.” Perhaps we should add, “Even better.”
Courage, integrity, compassion and service on behalf of others are values we humbly bring to the table of our lives and communities. Being imperfect is just one more gift to remind us that growth never stops and that the best way forward from inevitable setbacks is to use those experiences of our imperfect lives to help others benefit from lessons learned.
I recently was charged with driving under the influence. I accept that as one who, as Teddy Roosevelt described it lives “in the arena,” the successes or missteps in a public life are often overstated, and so I feel it’s appropriate for me to address this. In my case, I had consumed enough alcohol so as to be over the legal limit.
All the speculation as to anything else that happened that seemed salacious was simply not true; nothing else happened. I have been able to plead guilty and accept the same penalty for my mistake as anyone else in the like circumstances.
I received an enormous outpouring of support from so many. Literally hundreds of folks who know me, or know of me, have taken the time to offer their encouragement.
Make no mistake; there were also a few who were less than understanding, and I get that. They got me really thinking. Since my blood-alcohol level was relatively low, many suggested that it was “hardly enough to be declared illegal.” But, I soundly reject that narrative and prefer to take full responsibility for this unlawful act. I apologize to my wife, family, friends, clients, partners and beloved community. I am truly sorry. I have always tried to be a stand-up guy and, good or bad, it’s the only way I know how to be.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience. Exceeding the legal limit is no minor transgression. In a recent year, there were hundreds of alcohol-impaired fatalities in Kentucky. In 2016 there were 4.699 alcohol-involved collisions (492 in Fayette County alone). In the same period, there were 23,443 DUI arrests.
Clearly, too many of us are too cavalier about drinking and driving. I hope my example will help some to be more cognizant of the dangers associated with being impaired behind the wheel. In fact many of my friends have already told me that they appreciate the wake-up call. I hope they really do. I have.
My life has been a blessing; I’ve had opportunities beyond my wildest dreams — to be successful, to have been a part of so many of the most exciting ventures that I hope and believe made Lexington a better place; and to steadfastly believe that it is my duty to use any setbacks as learning lessons that I can share with others to help them grow stronger.
My way forward is clear. I accept full responsibility for my actions today, tomorrow and for all-time. I will continue to try to have a voice in making Lexington all it can be, but I will concentrate on my family and my business first.
I have encouraged my children to always accept personal responsibility. I plan to follow my own advice. Give those mottled tomatoes and peppers a chance — they are rich for their blemishes just as they are for their bold red and gold colors.
As the heroic pilot Captain Sully Sullenberger said, “I live my life as if my greatest contribution is yet to come.” So should we all.
Alan Stein is a Lexington businessman, civic leader and founder of the Lexington Legends.