Unwavering love and dedication

by Gov. Mike Beebe

While I have spent the vast majority of my life in Arkansas, my birth here was a coincidence of timing. My mother, living in Detroit at the time, was visiting family in Northeast Arkansas for the holidays when I arrived earlier than expected. We returned to Michigan shortly after, and I ended up spending much of my childhood moving around the country. Whether I was living in New Mexico, Missouri, Texas, Florida or eventually back in Arkansas, there was one constant during all the constant change and uncertainty: my mom.

I never met my father, and everywhere we moved, my mother would support the two of us by working as a waitress. She possessed charm and grace, but also had an incomplete education, having never finished high school. Working long hours in cafes and diners, she made enough money on low wages and tips to support both of us. At the same time, she made sure that being raised and constantly moved by a single mother did not hold back my potential for success.

My mother knew the importance of education, especially because she had only a limited one herself. Even though she worked nights, she would often have me at the restaurant with her to make sure my homework was done.

When we moved to Arkansas, there were families ready to take me in on any given evening, put an extra plate out at the dinner table and check on my progress at school. We didn’t call them mentors back then, but that’s essentially what these families were for me — people in the community willing to help out a single parent and her son.

While we have more resources available today for single-parent families, it does not lessen the great lengths those parents must go to ensure their livelihoods and the futures of their children. And sometimes it is against the backdrop of those long odds that some of our greatest success stories emerge.

The education that I obtained, with my mother’s help, set the foundation for a lifetime of personal achievement and public service that I could only dream of as a child. She didn’t live long enough to see me sworn in as attorney general or governor, but my mother was there the day I joined the Arkansas Senate, and there was no mistaking the pride and warmth she exuded that day.  

I got where I am today with the help of a great many people. But the two strongest foundations my life has been built upon are my education and a single mother who never wavered in her dedication and love.