BY Lisa MILICAJ*/
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,/
I want to thank the Albanian American Women’s Organization for the honor of selecting me as Woman of the Year, I am humbled. Thank you to the board and all the volunteers that contribute their time and resources to help the organization grow and make it successful. Let me begin by reading to you the Mission statement of the organization because it is so moving and meaningful; The AWWO works to lift the spirit, status and voice of Albanian women, girls and Albanian families so they can fully participate in all aspects of life, by becoming stronger, and more resilient, in overcoming the years of war, government oppression and “tradition” that have pushed them down and to the “margins” of society. AWWO hopes to strengthen the bonds between Albanian American women and their sisters all over the world. ** The awards provided by this organization have a truly special meaning because culturally women in our nationality have had tremendous hurdles to overcome and achieve what they have because of the chosen life and path already dictated to them culturally. I congratulate every woman in this room for their success. I must be perfectly honest, I was excited about getting the nomination but, not for the award, it is because I was getting the opportunity to share a message with all of you because sometimes 2 words in a message can change everything. Tonight I will deliver a message of hope and determination. I have no secret to my success, no straight path and no clear answer. I will not stand here and tell you that you should follow a script to success. I will not tell you that you must get a college degree and that you have to have one to be successful. Although I WILL tell you that no matter where you are in your life today, no matter your finances, or the degree, or what anyone tells you, or the outside noises of negativity; that you have special gifts and talents already inside of you that no one else has. Your life should start right where you are. Many of you here tonight do not know a lot about my life besides my short bio provided. I can tell you I had an arranged married at an early age, I came from and abusive marriage and I am divorced, I have had my oldest child taken away from me because of the “arranged” marriage and this month she will be 26 yrs old. I was that woman that was silenced until the age of 30, I was that woman who was locked in a house for years on end, who endured domestic violence, and I was not even allowed to use a phone or go to college, …. I WAS that woman. I did not choose these circumstances – here’s what I DID CHOOSE; TWO things; 1) my constant Faith In God, the harder things got the more my faith grew. 2) I did NOT let anyone break my Spirit! I had no voice but, my spirit ………..was on fire. The more adversity that I endured, the stronger my spirit grew. For anyone that may assume that I had an upper hand to success, I did not. Why am I telling you this? Because it is crucial that we not only remember where we came from but, how that will never stop our BRIGHT future. Be true to yourself, be honorable & be unstoppable in prosperity. This great country has been a magnet for Albanians because where else in the world can you live to your fullest potential. The Albanian Americans in this country have been more than resourceful utilizing everything to help Albanians all over the world reach their full potential & we won’t stop. Each and every person in this room has a gift, a talent that no one else has. Sometimes it can come to you out of anger, other times as a constant thought or a wish in the back of your mind, listen to those thoughts and think about how you can utilize them, so you can create wealth for yourself. When I was young I hated reading, I really hated reading!! Imagine all these years, the thing I hated the most makes me money today. I was challenged and hired to read and interpret complex language, I was thrown against the opinions of attorneys, insurance companies, claims adjusters and came out the winner. Now I just go with the flow, I just read from morning to night. So I am sure you are all wondering what my dream job is; it is to be a stay at home Mom, unfortunately my kids are never home, they are grown up and they are taking college classes and working so I can’t have my dream job so I JUST KEEP ON READING….. I want to take the opportunity to thank my parents, my father is no longer with us BUT, tonight he watches me from heaven. They say I have my father’s quiet reservation and determination and my mother’s optimism, feistiness and sense of humor. Thank you for all you did to raise and love me. Thank you to my two babies Paul and Nicolette for truly taking the hard road with me and as I watched you grow; you both watched me grow, I love you both so very much. Harry, you have been an inspiration since the day I met you, One of the first things Harry said to me was “you’re perfect, don’t change a thing”. YEP, you guessed it, now he’s stuck with me! Thank you all for coming and enjoy this great event .
* AAWO’s 2016 of The Year’Award