Monday, May 14, 2007

Lunch with a Medal of Honor Winner

Last week I had the honor of hosting a true hero at our corporate function to which we invited over two hundred employees. The theme of our meeting was "Managing Through Adversity" and my co-host and I agreed that asking Mr. Tibor "Ted" Rubin to be the keynote speaker would be a special occasion. Our company has been going through many challenges lately and we wanted to provide seminar information and participation exercises in how to be successful managers through rough times.

Mr. Rubin is a 78-year-old gentleman with a heavy Hungarian accent. Not only was he a Holocaust survivor, he was a Prisoner of War in a Chinese POW camp during the Korean War. His actions in combat and during his time as a POW were praised by hundreds of his fellow soldiers.

He waited fifty-five years for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was bestowed on him by President Bush in 2005.

Mr. Rubin's life story provides a dose of perspective for all of us who feel down and out from time to time.

In short, his is a story of survival. He and his Jewish family were taken from Hungary to a Nazi concentration camp when he was fourteen. He was freed by allied forces after fourteen months and vowed to repay the debt he felt he owed to America for his freedom. Mr. Rubin talks about his attempts to join the US Army, although he didn't speak English well enough to pass entrance exams, and finally making it through determination. He found himself in Okinawa and Korea in the Pusan region facing swarms of North Korean and Chinese soldiers. You can read and hear the rest of his story here.

Mr. Rubin explains all of his exploits in a self-deprecating way and with a sense of humor that takes the edge off the serious message of his life.

For our audience, the video of his story was moving and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. At the end of his presentation he fielded questions from the audience and, once again, put everyone at ease with his jokes.

Immediately after his speech, a spontaneous receiving line formed in the hall outside of the general session. Mr. Rubin shook hands with most, took pictures with others, and received more than a few hugs.

It was also my pleasure to have lunch with Mr. Rubin and his son, Frank, the next day at the hotel dining room. There were so many well-wishers stopping by that I was afraid the man wouldn't be allowed to eat his meal. But it is apparent that Mr. Rubin very much enjoys the contact and the opportunity to speak to so many "beautiful young people", as he repeated many times over the time he spent with us.