Facing Adversity Strengthens Character

On February 14 1884, a young Theodore Roosevelt then a state legislator in the New York State Assembly welcomed the birth of a daughter. But later that day, his wife, the love of his life, passed away after giving birth due to Bright’s Disease. That same day, he learned that his mother had also passed away from typhoid fever. His father had passed away a few years earlier. Now, a young Theodore Roosevelt was devastated with grief.

He dealt with that grief by heading out to the Dakota territory to live as a cowboy on the frontier. His sister agreed to look after his infant daughter. At first the men on the frontier thought that this man from back east was just another rich man playing cowboy. But Theodore Roosevelt got into the life of a cowboy and made a good impression. After a few years on the frontier, he returned to New York a changed man. He now had a purpose in his life.

Fast forward almost forty years and a young Franklin Roosevelt, after a day relaxing and swimming at the family’s summer retreat on Campobello Island near the Canadian border with Maine, felt feverish and went to bed. When he awakened, he couldn’t move his legs. He had been stricken with polio, a disease caused by a virus that was a major cause of crippling people.

His ambitions of following the example of his distant cousin were ended with his becoming crippled. But through the encouragement of his wife Eleanor, he was able to return to politics and was elected governor of New York in 1928, seven years after being crippled with polio. Becoming crippled changed his entire outlook and life.

Both these experiences of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt later had a profound impact on the United States and the world when they both became President of the United States. They came away from those tragedies and setbacks to become a President that not only changed the course of the United States, but of the world at large.

When I was a college student in the late 1960s, I spent a summer working in a steel mill as a summer “go-fer” filling in when someone took a vacation. One place where I spent a lot of time working was in the finishing department where the steel was finished before being shipped to the customer. This steel mill produced flat sheet rolled steel and most of that steel went to the local auto plants. The final processing of that steel are the annealing process and the temper mill. The annealing process heats the steel and the temper mill stretches it a little to give it the right thickness and finish.

Before entering the annealing and temper mill, the steel is brittle and not suited for use as car bodies. But after being heated and then stretched, the steel becomes more malleable so it could be stamped into panels, doors and other body parts of an automobile.

People are very much like that untreated steel before the finishing department. Unfinished, it is easily broken and unsuitable for its end use. However after being stressed, that steel can be stamped into whatever the user wants it to become.

If people are not tested by adversity or tragedy, then are they capable of dealing with the stresses and strains of daily living and their job? In my career in the business world, I have worked with many different kinds of managers. But by far the absolute worst were those spoiled people who had never had to deal with any adversity in their life. They never had to experience being called into the office and being told that they were no longer needed or that they were being “downsized” or that the company was being “restructured” and your job was being eliminated.

Perhaps the worst person to work for was the man or woman who has had everything fall into their lap or never had to deal with a job loss themselves. We have all had to deal with the person who had no empathy for anyone else but themselves.

Fifty years ago, I began working at a county welfare office in another part of Ohio. I had made a career change after being laid off twice from two different teaching positions in two years with what was a salary dump or being squeezed out as last hired, first fired. On one of my first days on that job, my supervisor gave me perhaps the best advice I ever received from anyone about any job. She told me never to make any moral or value judgements on anyone I would encounter on my job at the welfare office. She went on to tell me that I hadn’t “walked in their shoes” and didn’t know what adversities that the people I would be encountering had to endure.

That was good solid advice then and it is now for anyone who has a job dealing with people or the public, especially those who aspire to elected office. I have never forgotten that advice I received fifty years ago as a young man. Because overcoming adversity is what makes us stronger and usually a better person

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 7:58 AM, 03.01.2023