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Bill Mueller Honored with Distinguished Service Award

By Adrian Rehn

On September 27th, Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller accepted the Distinguished Service Award from Sacramento State. Distinguished Service Awards are given in recognition of professional achievements and community service. Honorees have achieved prominence in their chosen field and brought distinction to the University and/or their community through their accomplishments. Below you will find a transcript of his acceptance speech.

Thank you, Sac State Alumni Association and President Nelsen for this recognition. I also want to thank my dear friend and colleague Christine Ault for submitting my nomination.

My family is here. My sons’ Daniel and Brian, and my sisters’ Debbie, Susie and her husband Gary, and my kid sister Nancy.  My dear friend Fredrica is also here. My oldest son Nick is a priest in Boston and he and his wife Deena could not be here, but they are here in spirit. Thank you, all. You honor me by being here.

This award hits home. Not because of how it feels in this moment, but because this recognition is shared with friends, my family and my parents.

My parents are both gone now. My Dad died 16 years ago almost to the day. My Mom died of cancer in January. Her birthday was last Friday. I can still hear her, and feel her.

She and my dad were big believers in education. They knew it opened doors. To good jobs. To a better life. They encouraged it in their kids.

But my Mom in particular was always reading and always asking questions.  Education for her was not limited to the classroom. It was a lifelong commitment. She wanted to know. And both my mom and dad taught us kids, not just about the world, but how to be.

As children we were taught never to hate. We may dislike something or somebody, but never, ever hate. That it is not our differences that divide us, but instead the judgments we make about others that do. That 95% of all disagreements sprang from nothing more than missed expectations, poorly communicated, calling us to communicate better.

Our times tell us different. Our times say we should retreat to our tribes and keep to ourselves. That we should not engage people whose views and ideas don’t match our own — not because they are simply different than our view — but because we judge them to be wrong.

I can’t help but wonder what my mom and other moms would say about this. I think she’d  encourage us to grow up, not in a mean spirited way, but in a way that lets us know we aren’t living up to our best selves. She would encourage us to be less fearful and more hopeful. More faithful in things bigger than ourselves. To reach out, especially when it is hardest. To have heart that our better days are ahead, as they always have been. That education is our key, because it democratizes hope. This is what I hear from my mom every day.

I want to thank Sac State, and for my teachers like Joe Serna, who was teacher first and Sacramento Mayor second, for being that place of formation and inspiration for me, and for thousands more. You got us ready for this world, as our parents have, to serve in a way that unites us, and brings out our best selves.

Bill Mueller is Chief Executive of Valley Vision.