The only way I could describe this speech is riveting. The North Commons had more people at this event than any other event that I can remember. People from the criminal justice program, officers from local districts, even people in the landscaping program, were listening ever so intently on each syllable and joke that Bobby Smith uttered in his heavy Louisiana drawl. When his lecture was over I couldn’t see a dry eye in the room. This man’s life had been turned upside down so many times that only someone as strong as Bobby Smith could live to tell it so profoundly.
Bobby Smith knows how to get the attention of police officers and students who want to be police officers. He had brought 8 boxes of donuts with 2 dozen in each box along with coffee, soda and water.
The room was silent and respectful as Susan Whitestone, a Criminal Justice instructor here at Blackhawk Technical College, helped Bobby Smith to the front of the audience with a table at his back side for guidance as he felt the table’s edge as he walked back and forth holding his ‘regal blue’ painted cane. You ask why I made mention of the color of the ‘regal blue’ and not a white cane? I will explain later. The room was so quiet that he remarked that he thought everyone had walked out on him and he was going to be talking to the walls. That got us laughing and relaxed and made him feel at ease also. These were the type of jokes that he inserted in his speech to keep the tension to a bearable level. To start things off we could hardly hear him talking so Susan attempted to install a portable microphone on him and was having difficulty so Mike Cass, president of the Criminal Justice club, came to help. When he turned the unit on the feedback could be heard throughout the entire school and the IT guy came running down stairs from his second floor office to assist. This was enough for Bobby to come up with a few more chuckles.
Bobby Smith starts off his lecture with this, “Appreciate what you have and not what you don’t have. If you are in a bad relationship get out as soon as possible and find someone who will appreciate you – as soon as possible. You don’t have to take mental or physical abuse one day more. Don’t give the excuse that you have to stay because of the money or possessions that can be replaced because nothing means anything except your happiness. Get more people in your life with more of a positive attitude and the love that you deserve.” Bobby left us with that thought for a moment while he walked back and forth being guided the table. He deliberately left the silence for us to ponder on his words then he started in again.
“Law enforcement is a family. A cop is a cop. We are all the same. We serve the public and this job is not for everyone.” When Bobby was a rookie back in 1974 he was partnered with a cop that taught at the school that he attended as he worked to pay for his own education. Everyone at the college Bobby attended said this guy was a legend. This “legend” bought into the lie of the self-fulfilled prophesy (a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true). This cop told Bobby, “You want to be a cop, boy? Then you need to be one of us. You need to be married to the job. You think you are married to a wife? Let me tell you something – the job comes first. Your superior says jump, you just ask how high, whether you are on or off the clock. You learn that this job is all about us, not about family.” Bobby interjected with this thought, “You need to EARN respect but you also need to be accepted with your family, people that you work with and serve out there.”
Bobby indicated that he hates child- and spousal- abuse. He didn’t say right out but he inferred that back in Louisiana nobody puts up with that and you can expect a good old fashion @$$-whipping from someone if they find out about it.
Twenty-five years ago, just for fun, Louisiana State Trooper Bobby Smith would lift weights competitively. He could bench press 450 pounds. He could run all day without requiring a break. He worked out wearing a red T-shirt with an “S” on the chest because he thought to himself, “I’m Superman.” He thought himself as being invincible.
Bobby went on to tell a story of his first run-in with death. He was called to a scene of an accident where a car was wrapped around a tree and engulfed in flames. He looked in back of him and noticed his back up, a senior officer, who stood outside of his car looking at Bobby. Then the senior officer walked over to Bobby and asked, “You think you are still man enough for this job, boy?” as they watch helplessly as the people burned alive inside the vehicle. The heat was so intense that they couldn’t get within 20 feet of the vehicle. Then this officer said, “Big boys don’t cry! Get used to it! Suck it up, boy! This is what you do if you want to be one of us.” Bobby stated that carrying this kind of thing on your mind is one of the reasons that cops commit suicide. Then Bobby went on to tell of an accident where he held a 3 year old child in his arms while the mother was frantically crying. He kept telling the baby that everything will be alright after the ambulance got there. He said, “I’ll take you to McDonalds when this was all over. Please, just hang in there.” The baby died in his arms with the mother sobbing beside him. Bobby cried.
Bobby said, “You can’t keep the world on your shoulders but then again you can’t use alcohol to drown your sorrows because when you wake up the problems are still there and you are doing nothing but making things worse. You can’t take it out on your spouse or family members or store it in your junk closet either.” Bobby elaborated his reference to his junk closet. He told of how he was looking for his hunting attire in his junk closet and he found his hunting vest but it still had a dead wood duck in it from last year’s hunt and it stunk. He washed the vest many times but the stench was still there. He compared this to the way you can’t erase what you see. No matter how many times he washed that vest it still stunk. No matter how much you try to stuff those thoughts back in your closet (mind) they are still there and when the closet opens up, the junk falls out.
Bobby then explained that this ‘legend’ officer was wrong saying the things he did and believing the lie of the self-fulfilled prophesy. You don’t tell family that you don’t have time for them because what you are telling them is “You are not that high on my priority list”. (This made me think of the song by Harry Chapin called ‘Cats In The Cradle’. Click on the link and listen to the words of that song and you’ll understand what I mean.) One day Bobby saw a secretary that he had worked with for several years and noticed her wearing sunglasses at her desk. She was married to a cop. As he approached her, he could see what she was hiding. When Bobby grew up his daddy said to him, “Son, you NEVER lay a hand on any female – ever- because that is the sign of a coward.” ( I heard all three guys at my table agree quietly.) Then the lecture turned around back to his original first part of his lecture and he said, “YOU are an IDIOT to stay with any man that treats you with mental or physical abuse. That is like the dead duck in my vest, you are not going to ever get rid of the stench. The dead duck is just like your life. You or your spouse shouldn’t be walking around with a bad attitude, condescending remarks, being rude, hateful, walking around without a smile all the time just because your life stinks. You are walking around carrying dead ducks on your gun belt and around your neck and you are always going to stink until you get rid of them.” “Have you ever had a dog with a thorn in its paw? What happens when you try to help and try to remove the thorn? You usually get bit. That is what is happening to spouses and not just in this career field either.” “There is no justification for spousal abuse be it physical or mental with condescending or belittling words.”
Bobby asked, “How much water do you carry in your cup? How much water do you think that person you are stopping for a speeding ticket is carrying in their cup?” Bobby’s close friend and fellow officer stopped a car for speeding. He didn’t know that the guy had just killed his wife and had her stuffed in the trunk. When his friend, the officer, approached the car to ask for a driver’s license he was shot dead.
Bobby paused for a moment and continued with, “Never eat in a restaurant where you see a skinny cook. That has to tell you something right away.” He went on to tell a funny story about eating dinner with his friend when he was supposed to be on a diet and how he kept stealing his friend’s dinner every time he looked away and how he had got caught and swore at and how they laughed the hour away. He went on to say that after he left they got a call about a speeding motorist and they set up a road block. A white, 38 year old, violent drug offender named Fred Anderson Jr. of Amite, Louisiana spray painted his license plate regal blue and scratched off his sticker on his window. The reason he did this? He wanted to get stopped. He had 5 weapons on the front seat of the car. He had told a friend he ‘wanted to kill a pig today’. He wanted to do it for the fun of it and he wanted status in prison if they took him alive. Fred Anderson Jr. ran through the road block and the chase was on. They were 3 miles south of Winnsboro, under a crisp night sky on March 14, 1986. Bobby and his partner took off after him and with the attitude that many cops have, he wasn’t getting away. Fred Anderson Jr. slammed on his brakes on the highway and Bobby pulled up in front of Fred Anderson Jr. and started walking towards him when Fred Anderson Jr. pulled out a shotgun and shot Bobby with two rounds in the face. Bobby said he could see the pellets coming towards his face but he wasn’t fast enough to move. As the pellets hit his face, he fell to the ground and lay in a pool of his own blood. Bobby somehow managed to return fire hitting Fred Anderson Jr. in the chest. The next thing he heard was 7 shots ring out. It was his back up partner who he just had dinner with, who had had the shotgun wielded around towards him that shot Fred Anderson Jr. dead on the spot. Bobby chose not to give up, he chose not to die that day, and he chose to live. As he lie there he thought about his mother who died on his birthday, he thought about his baby girl, Kimberley, he thought about his beautiful wife who was Ms. Louisiana and he could hear his back up partner telling him not to give up.
Bobby fought for his life even as he wanted to die instead of being blind for the rest of his life. Soon after his wife left him because ‘she just couldn’t deal with it’. He put away the attitude of ‘big boys don’t cry’. Bobby sunk deeper and deeper into a life of despair. Friends from the department would come over and shed tears watching his life slip deeper and deeper into depression. At one point in Bobby’s life he pulled his service revolver out of the drawer and was contemplating ending his life. Then finally he had to come to realization that he needed help and asked his friends to take him somewhere to get the help.
Bobby finally had been convinced to go to a blind school. The jokes that Bobby had about blind school were hilarious and he had everyone laughing. When Bobby was first brought there he was handed a white walking stick. That evening Bobby called his brother and told him that he wanted him to come to his place and bring a can of ‘regal blue’ paint. Why ‘regal blue‘ you ask? Regal blue was the color of the Louisiana State Police uniform. He had his brother paint the white cane regal blue because he wants to feel like he is still part of a family that is helping him through life. The head of the school called him into the office and reamed him out telling him that he had no right to paint the white cane. She told him that the cane represents a universal symbol to everyone that you are blind. Bobby said, “Going into Wal-Mart and knocking everything off the shelves as you walk past is also a universal sign.” Bobby eventually got thrown out of school for his arrogance.
Bobby came to the conclusion that he needed therapy and again asked his friends for help. They all went for therapy for a while at the same time to help them all get through this as ‘family’. Bobby told the therapist, “I’m not allowed to cry but I’m afraid of the dark. I’m afraid to be alone. I’m scared to death.” He was told that he was only human and that he had to put away his red Superman shirt. See? Cops don’t like to ask for help. Bobby knew he needed help but “What does a therapist know about being thrown into darkness? He hasn’t been in my shoes.”
Today, unlike just 30 years ago, they now have something called Post Traumatic Therapy for post traumatic stress disorder. The therapist teaches you how to deal with your emotions and strengths.
One thing Bobby did learn was, ‘Don’t expect tomorrow – enjoy today’. If you find someone who you love and who loves you be with that person, stick with that person, enjoy every second with that person, respect that person and give that person all the love and respect that you have. “If you don’t, you may live to regret that you never took that opportunity.” The therapist asked Bobby to stand up and he put an empty chair in front of him. He told Bobby, “I want you to imagine that your ex-wife, the corporal who coldly told you that you were not needed in the department any more, and Fred Anderson Jr. are sitting in this chair one at a time.” Then the therapist said, “Bobby, you are carrying a 100# bag of sand on your back. It is a 100# bag of hatred that you need to get rid of. Now tell each one what you think of them. Then you need to forgive them.” Bobby let out his feeling of anger and frustration and lashed out at each one in that session.
One day when Bobby was younger he was at his grandmother’s house and it was raining really hard for days and his grandmother said, “Isn’t it beautiful?” Bobby looked at her and said, “It’s raining and yucky out there.” Then his grandmother pointed out the window and showed him a ray of sunshine. She said, “Focus on the ray of sunshine in the storm. Life isn’t always going to be fair. You need to live life to its fullest – not just put up with it.”
Usually when Bobby’s friends came to the house they just walked in and announced that they were there. But one day there was a knock on the door. Bobby went to the door and one of his friends said, “Bobby there has been a bad accident and your daughter, Kimberley, is in the hospital we need to get there now!” They sped to the hospital but it was too late. Bobby’s beautiful daughter had passed away. He held his 22-year old daughter’s hand and remembered her words, “Daddy, will you take me to play at the park? Daddy, will you pick me up from school and we can go for ice-cream? Daddy, will you teach me to drive? Daddy, do you want to meet my boyfriend?” There was a long pause as Bobby had to regain his emotions and composure. He passed back and forth gliding his hand on the edge of the table. How devastating this must have been for him to have to bury his only child.
Not too long after that Bobby met and married a wonderful lady named Janie. For years Janie wanted a baby and in 1990 they had a baby boy together named Brad. Brad was a great son. He looked up to his daddy. Bobby would be with him every chance he could for any event that Brad would participated in, whether it was baseball, basketball, or soccer. One day at a soccer event a lady came up to Bobby and asked, “You’re the cop that got shot, right?” Bobby replied, “Yes, ma’am I am. Can I help you?” She said, “Why do you come to the games if you cannot see your son play?” Bobby proudly said, “I’m here because I want to be with my son and my son wants me to be with him.” When Brad got older he was a good looking kid and he modeled for Hanes underwear as a part time job. Bobby and Janie went to visit Brad at college and walked in his dorm room to find him dead of a drug overdose on Feb 7th 2010.
The room was so silent that you could have heard the wings of a butterfly then – if one had been there. I looked around the room and saw many people wiping the tears from their eyes.
Bobby continued, “Something good comes from the losses if you let it. You need to focus on the ray of sunshine in the storm.” I believe that what Bobby was telling us is that this is the reason he does these seminars for us to realize how important life is, how important love is, how important our family and our spouse is.
Bobby said, “I want to leave you with one last thought. I want you to be able to walk away from here today with a change in your heart about how you are going to improve your life. I want you to remember – A blind man taught me to see today.”
There was a long standing ovation for Bobby Smith. He has written 2 books and the third is just being finished up within the next few months. Bobby sold out of all his books at this event. He had a large stack of both books that sold for $20.00. Many of us, being poor students, could not afford $20.00 but knowing that it was going to help Bobby, I, like many of us, bought one and you can too by clicking on this link here and help support this fine officer. One day I am hoping that I can buy the other two books.
I know that I was long-winded with this article but the reason for this is because some students could not miss their classes to attend one of the most educational events that I have ever seen. I wanted to give the best recounting of this speech that I could to help these students appreciate the phenomenal lecture that they missed.
I wrote to Bobby and sent this article and asked for his blessing and if any changes were to be corrected to let me know so that I did not misrepresent him and here is what Bobby’s secretary wrote back, “Bobby said it was a great article, and that yes, you can most definitely publish it!”