Integrity. Enthusiasm. Intelligence. Hard work. Compassion. Goodness. Selflessness.

Those are just some of the attributes that make up this special place – Ellis County. Most of you know that and are actually some of the folks who, through your contributions, have made it special. You aren’t well-known because you don’t care about recognition. You often times work behind the scenes and give freely because you care more for others than you do yourself. You see what good can come from your work rather than tearing down the good work of others.

That’s where greatness comes from, after all. Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, surmises that authentic greatness comes when people with high levels of character simply seek to do good rather than to be seen and heard. We have plenty of the former and, frankly, too many of the latter. Sadly, they are like dirt in the ice cream so to speak.

Between now and the first week of July, we will begin the process of recognizing people who make our community great. Then, on Sunday, July 30, we will publish our first ever 40 Under 40 special edition dedicated entirely to honoring them. Two weeks later, we will hold a luncheon to do more of the same. It’s a big deal to us and we look forward to it.

40 Under 40 is just what the brand implies – the recognition of 40 people in Ellis County, all under the age of 40, who embody the attributes mentioned above. To that end, The Daily Light will accept nominations from business owners, business leaders, city and county managers, ISD administrators and non-profit groups of those in their organizations who bring extraordinary value to their respective work environments. While there are thousands of these extraordinary people throughout the county, we will highlight and honor 40 of them annually beginning this year.

Nominations will be accepted starting today through Thursday, July 6. Since making the process simple is important, we will run promotional ads in our print products, on our websites and on our social networks. The digital ads will contain a link by which nominations can be submitted electronically and for those who’d prefer a hard copy, we will have forms in some ads and at the Daily Light office through July 6. We will also be happy to email a nomination form to you upon request. Once the deadline passes, all nominations will be handed over to a third-party independent panel of judges who will narrow the list to 40. Those 40 will then be featured in our 40 Under 40 special edition and at the luncheon. Along the way, we will strive to keep winners a surprise until that’s no longer possible.

From the nominations submitted, the judges will also be asked to select the following:

Young Professional of the Year

Young Local Government Professional Award

Young Private Sector Professional Award

Young Small Business Professional Award

Young Civic Leader Award

As I occasionally opine, we have so much for which to be grateful. A wonderful place to call home tops the list, but that’s only possible because good people work hard to make it so. They are the people we want to recognize.

As for those out there who I, along with a multitude of others in town, struggle to understand and whose behaviors are counter to the growth of a community, my hope is that a higher standard can be instilled. Rather than criticizing constantly, whining incessantly, tearing people apart daily and spending countless hours crafting bitter social network forums from which nothing good comes, maybe this project will help.

Above all, life should be more about highlighting the best among us than being mired in the snake pits of anger and contempt we see these days. As we do just that with 40 Under 40, may each of you think of those in your life who’ve made the kind of contributions worthy of such genuine recognition and honor.

When you do, go and tell them.