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Ken Starr Speaks at Yam Luncheon

Oct. 25, 2011 at 9 a.m.

GILMER--Baylor University President Ken Starr, the onetime independent counsel whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton's 1998 impeachment, stressed the importance of serving others in an address to the 74th annual East Texas Yamboree luncheon here Thursday.

An estimated 325-350 persons attended the "All-Service Club Luncheon" at the Gilmer High School gymnasium, said luncheon chairman Mari Jo Holloway. It occurred on the second day of the Yamboree festival's 4-day run.

Quoting the late Winston Churchill's statement that "we make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give," Starr told the assemblage that "we need to back to the community."

"By Churchill's standards, you've got a lot to be thankful for" in Upshur County, the speaker asserted, saying "I love the spirit of the (Yamboree) celebration."

As an example of someone who served others, Starr cited an East Texan, the late LeTourneau University founder R.G. LeTourneau.

Saying LeTourneau "has left us this legacy of servant leadership," Starr recounted how the businessman built "an empire and his name became synonymous with moving the earth." However, after his son died, LeTourneau realized he had been working hard, but "working hard for the wrong things," Starr said.

So LeTourneau became a giver who donated "90 percent of his income to philanthropic causes and to the church" while building the Longview university that is "a monument to that spirit of service," Starr declared.

Likewise, Upshur County "has built a community of servant leaders," the Baylor president said. Noting how his university's students and faculty have helped the people of Uganda, Starr said "it's the spirit of service that's honored by the Yamboree."

Starr also alluded to a decades-old Bill Withers song, Lean on Me. As Texas wrestles with economic uncertainty, drought and wildfires, the speaker told the assemblage, "You show that the spirit lifted up in 1972--'Lean on Me'--endures."

He also noted that the Yamboree's founding in 1935 during The Great Depression spoke of "the human spirit" inasmuch as those organizing it had determined "we're gonna have a celebration even though there's a depression underway." Starr termed the festival, which honors the yam that was once a major Upshur County crop, "an annual celebration of God's bounty of the harvest."

He also said Upshur County was once one of the top yam producers in the nation.

Before Starr spoke, Upshur County schoolchildren who won the Yamboree's essay and poetry contests were recognized.

Winners in Division A (grades 4-5) were Brianna Burns of Union Hill in the essay contest and Emily Williamson of New Diana in the poetry division.

Division B (grades 6-8) winners were Cyleigh Parker of Harmony, essay; and Katy Brooks of Ore City, poetry.

Winning Division C (grades 9-12) were Alyssa Arrington of Gilmer, essay; and Brittanie Coppedge of New Diana, poetry.

Also recognized was Shelby Laastad of Harmony High School, who won a contest to design a tee shirt for the Yamboree-related "Tater Trot" contest.



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