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By:  Michael Aun, http://www.aunline.com

I have known Dr. Nido Qubein since 1978 when I first joined the National Speakers Association.  Besides sharing the profession of public speaking, we have a number of things in common.

Both of us are of Lebanese descent, probably the first two to become part of NSA.  Nido is a first generation Lebanese American while I’m third generation.  He is one of the top pros on the platform today.

We used to jokingly call ourselves the Godfathers of the Lafia, the Lebanese Mafia, as we were the first two with Lebanese bloodlines.  Legend has it that Nido arrived in this country with $50.00 in his pocket and was barely able to speak English.

The joke around NSA was that he also had the world’s most exclusive American Express Centurion Black Card in the other pocket.  Jokes aside, if he didn’t have one when he arrived it wouldn’t be long before he would earn one of his own.

Dr. Qubein currently serves as President of High Point University in North Carolina as well as a Board Member of Great Harvest Bread Company, BB&T Bank, La-Z-Boy Corporation and Dot’s Stores, which collectively constitute hundreds of billions of assets.

In 2005, he ascended to the Presidency of High Point University, a school that US News & World Report has called one of the Best Colleges in North America.

Since taking over its helm, High Point University has enjoyed significant and measurable academic growth including 210% increase in traditional undergraduate enrollment.

I knew Nido best from his earlier days in America.  He was one of the pioneers of the National Speakers Association, serving as its President and one of the mainstays of the Professional Speakers Benefits Fund, which assists speakers who face hardships ranging from hurricane disasters to a variety of other issues.

Nido was always an innovator in every arena of his life, paving the way to help thousands with his wisdom from the platform and the many books he has authored.  He is one of fewer than 240 members of the Council of Peers Award of Excellence CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame®.  He has also attained the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional® designation which less than 12% of speakers worldwide have earned.

Widely known as a tremendous business speaker and philanthropist, Nido has always been focused.  “Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets,” says Nido.  “For the timid, change is frightening; for the comfortable, change is threatening; but for the confident, change is opportunity.”

One of my favorite Nido Qubein quotes was “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; the merely determine where you start…. Most worthwhile achievements are the result of many little things done in a single direction.”

Focus… pure and simple… that’s what Nido Qubein taught me… and he did so by example.   The messenger was indeed the message.

I have had the good fortune of being able to donate to Nido’s scholarship foundation for the past quarter century and have been a firsthand witness to how he has helped thousands of aspiring students earn a degree and a better way of life.

Nido honored me by nominating me to the CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame® in 2000.  We have often shared the platform together.  My earliest memories of him go back to the days when we both labored in the speaking vineyards, doing one night stands on the after dinner chicken circuit.  That’s where we each learned the art of speaking under the most difficult of circumstances.

He has been the recipient of many honors including The Ellis Island Medal of Honor® (along with four US presidents), The Horatio Alger Award® and Toastmaster International’s Golden Gavel Award®.

If it’s true that we are judged by the company we keep, I am indeed, I’m proud to be a member of the Lafia.

Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® has served as a member of the National Speakers Association’s Board of Directors.