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“Self-Appointed Thank-You Monitor of the United States” Visits Randolph-Macon Academy

“Self-Appointed Thank-You Monitor of the United States” Visits Randolph-Macon Academy


Front Royal, VA–With the first words out of his mouth, author V.J. Smith made sure that he was heard by every student at Randolph-Macon Academy. The date was October 21, 2013, and Smith, author of The Richest Man in Town, was speaking to the entire student body at the invitation of Maj Gen Maury Forsyth, president of R-MA.

Students scramble to catch brightly colored cards as V.J. Smith tosses them into the audience.

“What goes around…” he bellowed out to the students.

“Comes around!” came the half-hearted response.

Not satisfied with the answer, Smith repeated it until the students’ responding shouts were rattling the windows in Boggs Chapel. “He came out with a lot of energy, especially that time of morning,” observed R-MA senior Garrett Cavanaugh.

Calling himself the “Self- Appointed Thank-You Monitor of the United States,” Smith went on to enthrall the students with several stories, stressing the importance of being grateful and expressing gratitude. In the process, he rejected many of the common answers that people now give when they are thanked.

“No problem,” he quoted. “It wasn’t supposed to be! Don’t mention it. You don’t mean that! How about saying “You’re welcome!”

During his presentation, Smith threw out colored cards to the students. On them was his mailing address and ways to say “Thank you” in more than a dozen different languages—an extremely appropriate “gift” given the fact that 25% of R-MA’s student population is made up of international students.

Smith told the students that he had met a man who was, “loved, respected, and content in every aspect of his life.” That, Smith told the students, was the real meaning of being rich. And to top it off, he added, “I met him at Wal-Mart.”

The man was a Wal-Mart cashier named Marty. Smith described how Marty greeted each person in his line, asked how they were doing, then looked them in the eye and truly listened to their answer. When giving change, he would walk around the cashier counter to hand the person his or her money, shake hands, and sincerely say, “I sure do thank you for shopping here today.” One woman described him as everybody’s grandfather, who gave candy to the children and received hugs in return.

Smith was so amazed by Marty that eventually he wrote a letter to the CEO of Wal-Mart to let him know of this incredibly genteel and kind-hearted cashier. That action led not only to Marty’s recognition within the corporation, but eventually to a deep friendship between the two men.

Smith said he learned three things from Marty that were simple yet profound:

  1. Relationships matter most in life.
  2. Try to do a little bit more.
  3. Only you can make you happy.

“If you want to find the good in someone, you’ll find the good. If you want to find the bad, you’ll find the bad,” Smith told the students.

The impact of his speech was felt by everyone gathered in Boggs Chapel that morning.

“I think it was probably one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard, ever,” said freshman Gery You-Ghosal. “Marty made everyone feel important, like they had a purpose in this world. I think that touched everyone in the room.”

“I had tears in my eyes throughout the whole talk,” commented Alumni Director Ann Brander. “He was funny, honest, and made you feel that if you make a difference in one person's life, you've succeeded in making a difference in the world.”

“It was really inspiring how one minute out of your day can change a life,” agreed Cavanaugh. He said Marty’s story really drove home to him that you “don’t get to choose what family you’re born into. Marty was born into a poor family. I come from a fairly wealthy family, we’re better off than a lot of people, and it makes me think how I have to work harder to make a name for myself. Marty had to stop his education to support his family in eighth grade. His story makes you less egotistical, a better person.”

“It had me re-evaluate myself,” agreed junior Taylor Dixon. “I realized all the things I should be doing more.” The lesson of being thankful was not lost on her either. “I wanted to thank the general. It was really thoughtful of him [to bring Smith in]. He’s so busy, he didn’t have to do that. It was really nice of him.”

Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12.  Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).  R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.