By Walter GeigerI’ve heard a lot of motivational speeches in my life. Quite frankly, most have been snoozers with an occasional treat thrown in. Last week, however, I was spellbound as Jackie Harmon spoke at an academic achievement banquet.Harmon, then 15, moved to Griffin with her mother and a man her mother had taken up with.Turns out the man was an abusive drunk who beat Jackie’s mom and once split open her skull.When he was through kicking them around, the man kicked Jackie and her mom out of the houseAll they had was a pickup truck. They found lodging in a shack at the end of a road. Jackie slept little, worried the man may come back to finish the job.Every morning, Jackie’s mom drove her to Griffin High School. She was there when the doors were unlocked and would head to the bathroom where she bathed and washed her hair in a sink and otherwise took care of her personal hygiene needs.Then she was off to the cafeteria for the taxpayerprovided breakfast. She ate the stuff that would spoil and squirreled away the rest to take home and feed her mother. She did the same thing at lunch. They survived and Jackie studied.One day the school loudspeaker called Jackie to the office.She tried to play it cool but the school counseling office had learned she was homeless. She and her mother were taken to a shelter.Slowly, they got back on their feet. A stranger bought new tires for their truck.Her mom got some training and a job at a beauty salon.Jackie got a part time job at Piggly Wiggly and kept her nose to the grindstone and in her school books. She graduated in 2012 and was STAR student at Griffin High.She received a scholarship to attend Mercer University.She recently joined the National Guard and worked long and hard to pass the physical training test. She went from doing a handful of sit-ups and pushups to 41 pushups and over 80 sit-ups. She dropped her two-mile run time to about 14 minutes. She passed her test and is now taking advantage of the National Guard’s education assistance program.’If I can do this, anybody can do it. If you put forth some effort, you can make it. You have to find your motivation and hold on to it. You have to shoot for the stars,’ Jackie told her audience.She did just that and made something of herself, rising out of the quicksand of poverty by refusing to give up.Millions of sorry folks all across this country could learn from her example.Most won’t because they have no initiative and no interest in developing any.That’s what makes Jackie’s story so unique.She put forth the effort to succeed and was rewarded for that effort.That used to be the American way. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.