How do I begin? The support that the community has given me has been greatly appreciated by both my family and I over the last 32 years. I remember, as many of you do, being a young kid and singing my songs all over town ... especially Fisherman's Net in the mid-1990s. Whether it was in school, churches, weddings or funerals, I took every opportunity to share my God-given talent with the community whenever I could.
Those who are close to me know that I have never been one to back down from a challenge, and this competition has been by far the toughest challenge of my life. There have been some extreme highs and lows, and there has been plenty of anxiety. Your love and support has carried me through all of this, and I couldn't be more grateful to you.
I want each of you to know that I take great pride in representing Sikeston on the national stage. Unfortunately, I have been told for many years in musical circles to claim larger metropolitan areas as my home. They said that it would give me more credibility and validity as a musician if I said I was from St. Louis or Kansas City, New York City or Chicago, Los Angeles or Boston.
But for me, home has been and will always be Sikeston, Mo., just about the Bootheel in the middle of America. My roots are here; my friends are here, and everyone that has inspired me to carry on is here. The entire world is literally watching and learning what I have always known ... Sikeston is a great place to live, work and dream. There is a lot of talent in our little city. Just look at Blake DeWitt and Jacob Priday, and all who are following in their footsteps. It makes me so proud. Something great is happening to Sikeston, and we're all a part of it!
A number of people in the community have asked my mother, Esther, if there was a secret to the way she raised (my brother) Michael and I. I will tell you her secret now. She taught us to never take family or friends for granted, and to always DREAM BIG! She also taught us that time is fleeting, and passes so quickly, so when you see opportunity you have to seize it immediately. She simply encouraged us to follow whatever we were truly passionate about. I was a writer, a poet, an athlete, a politician and most importantly a musician, all while I was a kid growing up in our little city.
Thank you for all sending my mother to hear me sing. The look on her face was priceless! I hope to see you all again very soon. Please take advantage of this opportunity to promote Sikeston and its great families, schools, businesses and churches. And don't forget to DREAM BIG! Like I said in my graduation poem "The Bridge" in 1994:
It's time to take the steps,
Those that lead to victory.
I must walk tall and make my mark,
Though at times I fear I'll fail,
But I'll take a chance in life,
For I've learned,
If I cross the bridge with fear and doubt,
I will surely fall,
But it's best to take my chances now,
Than never to have tried at all....
Neal E. Boyd