Niagara Gazette


February 26, 2012

Take Jackson’s advice — be like Mike Barksdale

Falls youth takes presidential candidate’s words to heart

NIAGARA FALLS — Fifteen-year-old Michael Barksdale sat in the grand ball room of the Parkway Inn amidst 700 of the Niagara-area’s finest citizens as 1984 presidential candidate Jesse Jackson waxed eloquently at the nearby podium. As with most male teenagers, the platter in front of Michael was far more important to him than the presidential chatter of the speaker.

Jackson finished his speech and called for questions; but one of the only few sounds remaining in the mesmerized room was that of Michael’s fork dancing between his plate and the remnants of food that lay there on it as he continued his undisturbed dining.

The embarrassing silence continued as Jackson once again called for questions, and no one responded.  Michael continued to eat, seemingly unaware of anything other than his meal.

Jackson called for questions a third time, which finally prompted someone at Michael’s table to rise and call for Jackson’s attention as to ask question. With an exhalation of relief, Jackson looked at that person and said, “Yes; what is your question?”

Michael was near-oblivious, as his face continued to hover over his plate.

The person asked, “Mr. Jackson, what can you tell my nephew, here ...” and then he reached and touched Michael on the shoulder, causing the teenager to momentarily freeze and then look sheepishly up at Jackson. The questioner continued, “... that can help him do some of the great things that you have done in your life?”

Without hesitation, Jackson addressed the teen as he sat there, saying, “Stay in school and get a GOOD education, don’t use alcohol, stay away from drugs, and the job you that want may not exist — you may have to create it yourself.”

With that being said, and the ice being broken, others began to ask questions and the presidential contender eloquently answered each and all. But, the only teenager that was addressed that night was Michael Barksdale.

Barksdale went on to play on the 1987 State Champion Class- C Trott Vocational High School basketball team; and, upon graduation from that school, he enlisted into the Air Force. There, he traveled around the country and served a stint in Korea.

Jackson’s muffling echo

Barksdale took his Air Force discharge after ten years of service and eventually settled in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun. Using his Air Force experience, he landed a job with Honeywell Aerospace in their Metrology Lab. For 11 years, he faithfully continued the calibration of measuring devices that he had learned in the Air Force. Jackson’s still-muffling words continued to echo within him.

Honeywell’s businesses span the globe, and their vast inventory of rarely used and widely dispersed specialty measuring equipment just didn't make good business sense. Barksdale’s test equipment background and strong working relationships in the aerospace industry positioned him to work with both Honeywell’s external consultant and its handpicked team that implemented an innovative concept that has saved the company millions of dollars.

As a result, the company can potentially run much more efficiently with the centralized inventory they developed; whereby each technician in the company‘s component businesses that have need of an infrequently used piece of test equipment can now know the existence and location of that equipment and request its use, instead of purchasing additional expensive duplicates.

With Michael, Honeywell put those systems into place; and take one guess at which Trott-educated, non-drinking, non-drug using, basketball-playing adherent to Jackson’s advice now bounces all over the country and manages the job that he, himself, was a part of creating?

If you did guess, then you know that you don't have to be a superstar like Michael Jordan to be a success. Here, in Niagara Falls, you can ‘be like Mike’ Barksdale and get to work creating your own opportunities.

Or you can continue to just create excuses.

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