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Suggs helps National Agents Alliance start National Convention with a Bang!

RALEIGH, N.C. – Benny Suggs joined National Agents Alliance for its “Be Your Own Rock Star” National Convention kickoff Friday and the Executive Director of the North Carolina State University Alumni Association did not disappoint.

Suggs, who has been in his position at N.C. State for 18 months, led the crowd of thousands in the Pledge of Allegiance and then helped bring the color guard from N.C. State’s ROTC Department on stage for the singing of the national anthem by BreAnn Goad.

Suggs grew up with a love and fascination for airplanes, which led him to the Navy, where he spent 30 years serving his country before retiring in 2000 as a rear admiral. He flew attack and fighter jets from the decks of 12 different aircraft carriers. His last assignment was Deputy Commander in Chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Suggs referenced the atmosphere he felt during his time on stage at the Raleigh Convention Center.

“The energy in this room … and I used to fly fighter planes equipped with afterburners and you guys don’t need an afterburner,” Suggs said. “The energy here is incredible.”

Suggs thanked the National Agents Alliance crowd for its enthusiasm and complimented them on working so hard to have a successful year in 2011.

“I wasn’t in the movie (Top Gun) … didn’t need to be,” Suggs said of flying fighter jets. “There are two things about the F-14 Tomcat that it couldn’t do, and that’s what you all remind me of. It couldn’t back up and it couldn’t back down.”

Suggs spoke to the crowd about getting to hear U.S. Sen. John McCain speak during the 100th celebration of Naval Aviation last year. Suggs said the Arizona senator talked about the difference between managers and leaders.

“Leaders inspire people, managers manage people and assets,” Suggs said. “Leaders think about protecting and promoting their people. That’s why you are here folks. Managers think about protecting their own careers. Leaders take charge and accept responsibility. Managers often pass the buck to higher authority for fear of making a wrong decision. Leaders take risks when necessary; managers are taught to avoid risk whenever possible. I think I’m in a group of leaders.”

Suggs read one of his favorite historic quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt called The Man in the Arena.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” Roosevelt said on April 23, 1910. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

“That is cool,” Suggs said after reading the quote. “Work hard, you are in the arena. Soar high!”

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