This is my good friend, Bejan Taheri. I met him, and his delightful family, when Christina and I did some speech coaching with his oldest son, Andrew. Andrew turned out to be our most successful coaching endeavor, ultimately winning the Optimist International annual contest. I won’t forget that night for a long time. Bejan and I were a bit over exuberant when Andrew was announced the winner—actually that’s a gross understatement. We were tacky, but what the heck, the kid worked hard, and we wanted him to know how we felt.
I haven’t seen Bejan in a year and a half, yet I still remember that encounter. It was two days after the killer tornados hit Alabama, which was April 27, 2011. We live in Huntsville, Alabama, which was only light damaged by the storms, however we were without power for days. The third day after the storm we left Huntsville in search of gasoline, ice, and a few other items.
Sixty miles later we found ourselves in Rainsville, Alabama, where we saw the first real devastation of the storms. That’s also where we saw and talked with Bejan. He was standing in the middle of Highway 35, surrounded by debris and downed power lines, directing traffic. He didn’t look like he’d had any sleep in two days and the tear tracks were evident in the dust on his face. In spite of that, his face lit up when he saw us. He motioned for me to pull over, and we talked for a few minutes. Later I realized that our conversation with him reminded me of conversations I had years ago with infantrymen we extracted from hot landing zones in South Vietnam.
Bejan was born in Iran. He came to America when he was 18 years old. When he arrived his English vocabulary consisted of “Cheeseburger and Pepsi,” so that’s what he lived on until he learned some additional phrases. He not only expanded his vocabulary, he married Donna, his wife of 30 years, he earned a degree in engineering and worked for the Alabama Highway Department until he retired a few years ago. He became a U.S. Citizen, fathered three outstanding children, took up politics, with a successful run for the Rainsville City Council. Now my friend is running for Mayor of Rainsville.
I know Bejan Taheri, and I don’t know his opponent, but that doesn’t matter. You see, I know there is no one in Rainsville, Alabama, more qualified to be its Mayor. There is no one in Rainsville, Alabama who loves the town any more than Bejan Taheri. There is no one in Rainsville, Alabama who more epitomizes the American dream than Bejan Taheri, my Iranian friend who I fervently hope wins the upcoming runoff and many more elections down the road.