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Two Guys Named Smith


Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.
—St. Francis of Assisi

At NAIFA’s convention in Baltimore this September, two guys named Smith demonstrated the meaning of those words.

Rick Smith is CEO and editor-in-chief of Newsweek magazine, LIFE Foundation’s co-sponsor of the realLIFEstories program for the 10th straight year. This was the eighth awards banquet Rick has attended, and he spoke movingly of the wonderful work our industry and our members do for their clients, work exemplified by the award recipients.

Rick is a busy and challenged man in a world in turmoil. He could have sent a vice president to the banquet on that Sunday night, a week after Hurricane Katrina hit. He certainly could have sent a vice president to such spots as Charlotte, Kansas City and Las Vegas in years past.

I once asked him why a man of his stature and with his responsibilities comes to this dinner year in and year out. He said, “David, as a reporter and editor, I have covered more than my share of human misery and sadness. In these realLIFEstories we see those themes, but we also see dedicated and compassionate professionals who use their expertise to lessen suffering. I feel blessed to be in the company of these truly wonderful people.”

This is a man who has dined with kings and presidents. Yet he dines with us each year to honor those who serve others in time of need.

A shining example
This year’s John Newton Russell Memorial Award was received by past GAMA president and CEO, and former leading Prudential manager, Charles A. Smith. Charlie was honored for his long and passionate service on behalf of our business, our mission and our people. Most recently, Charlie has been the guiding spirit of the Task Force for the Future, a massive and challenging industry-wide initiative to restore life insurance as the foundation of sound financial and retirement planning.

Charlie’s acceptance speech was moving in its modesty. He gave credit for his success to many people, focusing on his long-time mentor, Jim Horton, whom he called to the stage. To be around Charlie is to feel better about yourself and the world. He genuinely loves people, and his joy is infectious.

Rick Smith and Charlie Smith reached the top of their professions by “preaching the gospel at all times, occasionally using words.” In other words, they are authentic in their concern and compassion for others. They live it daily.

The lesson for the rest of us is clear. Thank you, Rick and Charlie.


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