Stan Cottrell’s Meeting With Ethiopia’s Beloved President Girma
The entire story of the meeting with the President of the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Girma Weidegorgis, on Saturday, June 15th is like something out of Fantasy Island … with Zebider Zewdie, Founder and Executive Director of the Mary Joy Development Association, described by Stan Cottrell as “The Mother Theresa of the 21st Century”… Tekeste Girma, Public Relations Director for the Ethiopia Chamber of Commerce, Managing Editor of African Views Magazine and a genuine humanitarian… with our team of Dr. Jerry Spencer, filmmaker Mickey Grant, and Friendship Sports and GGFR Founder and Good Will Ambassador, Stan Cottrell.
“We speak in future tense about making a difference…
Well, in that day, the difference was ignited….”
– Stan Cottrell regarding the June 15, 2013
meeting with President Girma of Ethiopia
It all started with the Addis Ababa meeting on June 14th with Tekeste and Zebider, when Tekeste asserted: “I think the President needs to know about you” (as people have said in the past about initiatives Stan’s done)… Whereupon Zebider quickly made a simple phone call. Then she hung up announcing: “We’re to meet tomorrow at the Royal Palace. The President will see us.”
Having met with Heads of State on so many friendship runs, Stan was prepared for the typical advance screening: name, passport and security check…. and the next morning, being stopped at the gate, with guards examining the car and securing Mickey’s film equipment… They spent almost an hour going through every single piece of equipment, tripods, etc., “…an incredibly thorough job of protecting the President, not just a formality of security…very thorough.”
Stan admits that he had a little nervousness, as one might expect… like going to the White House and palaces of the world. There is a certain awe and respect that’s engendered by the “position power” that goes with the office… After all, he would be meeting the President of the oldest independent country in Africa, one of the oldest in the world… He would be meeting a man in his impressive 12th year in Office, elected by a populace who universally expressed high admiration for the man wherever Stan went. So many re-elections in a truly free voting process in itself speaks volumes. Stan was ever more respectful based on what people everywhere said about President Girma: “…very brilliant, speaks numerous languages fluently, incredibly well educated…”
The group was led to President Girma’s private home on the grounds of the National Palace… the approach exuding the position power that comes with the office and trappings of the President… You can’t help feeling the slight nervousness that comes with deep respect, concern that you do things right… the nuances of how to greet, act, respond when meeting of a Head of State… reinforced by the intense scrutiny of Security when you walk in, who then accompany you all the way on the walk down the long hallway.
But unlike a palace, there were lots of family pictures on the walls of the 40-plus-foot-long hallway. All of a sudden, it was not like going to just some architectural, pretentious palace (of which Stan has experienced many), but “…the feeling that here’s a man who is about PEOPLE and AFFILIATIONS … You get a warm feeling the minute you are in the house and walking down the hallway. He has the respectful power position but…”
Zebider went in front of the group because of her relationship with the President. Stan reports: “As we walk and turn left into his private, private room, here is the setting… a man 88 years old, in a wheelchair, behind his desk, wearing a coat that denotes his position as President of the country… But on the walls there are such things as a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow Award”….
As the conversation went on, it became ever more personal. Stan commented to the President: “I see you have the Paul Harris Fellow Award. I’ve been honored also as a recipient of the Award…,” to which the President smiled and nodded. Stan tells us: “There were so many clues around that, even though I was sitting with the 12-year President of Ethiopia, it was ‘comfort zone appropriate’ … an intimate setting, cozy quarters, which is why only five visitors were allowed.”
The film equipment tie-up in Security was actually a blessing, because the GGFR group had almost an hour before the cameras were ever turned on – just Zebider, Tekeste, Jerry, Mickey and Stan alone with the President.
Stan reflects: “I was just enveloped in the feeling of the highest honor we Southern men can bestow upon another, that ‘He’s a good ole boy’… said with all the respect in the world. He showed such caring, such sincerity… He didn’t have to prove anything to anyone… He showed he genuinely appreciates us and what we are about… This remarkable man is on Zebider’s Board of Directors… He personally adopted 6 children… He’s the ‘real deal’… He will be there for the special run being planned for the September 11 Ethiopian New Year and the showing of our Ethiopia film that’s in production now…”
Stan continues: “Because of his incredible style of leadership, I can now see why so many strides are being made for orphans in Ethiopia… the environment there… research and a vision for the future that will definitely outlive his own life… He’s a man who has made the most of all of his life… truly the embodiment of what I call an ‘achiever’… You know what that means, someone who lives the lifestyle / mindstyle of ever achieving more, new heights, not ‘achievement’ that’s an event or thing set in time, completed, with the person then resting on his laurels without ever contributing more…”
“With all the trappings around him, this man not only has achieved the office of President with the position power that goes with it, but he has not flaunted or taken advantage of his position in a self-willed way, Heaven forbid… He has used it for the betterment of Ethiopia and to bring honor… a model of excellence to show future presidents… Such a positive experience I will never forget!”
What’s shared on the short film clips is just a glimpse of the hour of personal conversation that preceded it…. In addition to Stan’s interview of the President, we have a one-minute clip of Dr. Jerry Spencer praying with him: https://vimeo.com/68525185 … praying for this “man who thought of others and not just of himself.” – Jerry Spencer
In the interview, President Girma spoke to Stan with appreciation: “I’m happy to learn that someone is doing such a work, heading around to benefit the unfortunate, the orphans of the world. This is the first time I’ve met someone like you. You are doing a wonderful job…”
Then commenting on the “Ethiopian model,” Stan emphasized that with so many initiatives, “…there is no place on earth that makes a stronger statement about what’s being done for the orphans of the world than what’s taking place right here in Ethiopia…”
The President acknowledged Stan’s and the GGFR’s new co-laborer, Mary Joy (Zibeder’s organization), as Ethiopia’s “ultimate fighter and worker in this line, and I am very pleased that you are helping on that matter.” On that matter, the orphans, the President gently nodded agreement as Stan spoke with conviction:
“It is so important being involved in the lives of orphans, pouring into them the positive ingredients, so that in just a very few years, they can pour out positive things back to our society. It is so important. The orphans are our future, and we MUST do something today…” – Stan Cottrell to President Girma
Stan continued with thoughts from the earlier conversation: “I am so thankful that there is a Servant in a position of leadership like yourself, and the positive impact of what you are doing will be felt for all eternity. You have a beautiful heart. You have a warm, gentle spirit, and you do have a heart of compassion. And I thank you for this kind of person that you are and the victories you are giving to the world in your taking a stand in what you are doing for the orphans.”
President Girma humbly assented, “…it is my duty and desire to do so, and I am happy to be able to do something about it…”
Stan quoted from Gladiator: “Men, remember, what we do in life will be felt for eternity” … then continued: “And I know you will agree with me. The steps that we take today, no matter how small it might seem, it’s still that important step and it will be… that ripple effect… it will be felt for all of eternity.”
In full accord, President Girma responded: “Well, I do believe it is so…motivating the others to do what we are doing, and this will go a long way and be felt everywhere. And that will benefit the world.”
When asked what message Stan could take from him to the rest of the world that would make a difference, President Girma said: “… Keep running and help other people,” then chuckled gently and reinforced softly, “Yeah… That’s great…”
You can see the short video interview portion of the warm, comfortable, hour long conversation on the “RunStanCottrell” channel on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/68479589
This caring man made Stan feel like he truly appreciated him and the contributions Stan and the GGFR team and supporters are making. Stan’s reaction: “He made all of my psychic bells ring in being with him… I felt like, ‘Gosh, I could just spend an awful lot of time just sitting at this man’s feet and learning.’… He was so patient waiting for Security and the cameras, never impatient or angry as others might be…”
Stan said they even talked about Stan’s Mama (born the same year as the President), and further commented, “It’s like coming back home to a relative you haven’t seen forever, like an uncle… I just pray that when the history of Ethiopia is written, his name will live in the hearts of Ethiopians as Lincoln lives in our country…”
“What a wonderful way to start the GGFR!
It all makes so much sense when I say Ethiopia is the model that will show the people of the world what can happen when people come together in friendship and also show the heart for the orphans.” – Stan Cottrell
Zebider Zewdie’s Mary Joy Development Association Serves Orphans
President Girma is on Zebider Zewdie’s high level, five-member Board of Directors for the Mary Joy Development Association (MJDA). The MJDA consists of experienced professionals from different disciplines, especially social science, medical, managerial skills, and its members have collective work experience in HIV & AIDS prevention, poverty reduction, health and education. It is governed by a 43-member General Assembly.
MJ DA intervenes in two regions: Addis Ababa and Southern Nations and Nationalities based at four coordination offices (Kolfei, Yeka , Hawassa, Dilla) that constitute nine satellite offices located in Southern nations and nationalities, Sidama Zone, Gedoi Zone and Halabakulito special woreda. Mary Joy covers 63 Kebeles (the smallest administrative unit of Ethiopia, similar to a ward, neighbourhood or other localized group of people) and has been benefiting over 1,580,475 people directly and indirectly.
MJDA’s target groups are children with particular emphasis on orphans and vulnerable children, destitute older persons, people living with HIV/AIDS, women, youth, livelihood sex workers and factory workers as the main disadvantaged groups of people the organization is paying attention to.
“I am so glad to be under the umbrella of this new friendship, also with the benefits and honor to be working with this lady and her associates, the President and key people all over the earth… to be adopted into this family… Priceless!” – Stan Cottrell