(by Lawrence W. Reed, Best Man)
March 29, 2003
Harvard Faculty Club
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this reception for Joe and Helen Overton. Allow me please to say a few words and to propose a toast.
Three days ago, the government’s national weather service forecast for today called for wind and rain. I think the fact that the clouds parted, the sun came out, and the rain has stayed away is a sign of the Almighty’s high regard for Joe and Helen and also a blessed testament to the fact that at least with regard to the weather, God and not the government is in charge.
First, I want to say that if I live to be a hundred, I am quite sure I will always rank the honor of this occasion among the most important and meaningful of my life, because of how special Joe and Helen are. I was so taken by Joe’s request that I serve as Best Man for his and Helen’s wedding that a day later, I asked him to ask me again just so I could savor the moment.
That singular honor, and the larger event that gathers us all here today, are both so personally meaningful to me that I’ve prepared a text rather than trust to memory or hope that I could muster the confidence to get through a more impromptu approach without falling apart. So if I sound like I’m reading, please bear with me and know that it’s as much from the heart as anything I’ve ever put to words.
Joe Overton has been my best friend for many years now. He has been a teacher, a confidant and a constant inspiration—indeed, he’s been everything one could hope for in a best friend or a brother. As a professional colleague, you couldn’t hope for anything better either. For the success of our organization in Michigan, no one—and I do mean no one—has done more.
The memories of the things we’ve done together are rich with tales of adventure: They include bungie jumping and skydiving in New Zealand, attending a presidential inauguration in Nicaragua, working on a farm in China, driving through the jungles of Malaysia or the war-ravaged countryside of Croatia during the Yugoslavian civil war, and visiting with anti-communist freedom fighters in Eastern Europe and Africa.
We’ve done some pretty risky things together, including the time we flew in a Cessna 172 in broad daylight at tree-top level 150 miles into war-torn Mozambique to assist armed rebels fighting the Marxist regime there. In fact, I don’t know if Helen realizes it yet, but the man she just married has probably, at one time or another, been on the most wanted list in at least a dozen countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a few moments out from honeymooning in the Caribbean to activate some local rabble-rousers on behalf of a good cause.
That passion for freedom is one of Joe’s defining characteristics. But because you know him, you know there are other things that immediately come to mind whenever his name comes up: character, principles, integrity, honor, idealism, honesty, candor, conscience, values. These are traits that in recent months as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve come to appreciate in Helen as well, which is one reason why we have here the perfect match. Helen, you are extra special in the hearts of all of us not just because Joe Overton chose you, but equally because you chose him.
What a remarkable Christian witness this union will be! Joe and Helen are sterling exemplars of what it means to walk in the path of the Lord and their commitment to each other is surpassed only by their commitment to Him. The ministerial synergy of the two of them together—in word, deed and through the sheer power of example—is something all of us should look forward to as much as I’m sure the Lord is himself. Thank you, Lord, for bringing together these two good, humble and faithful servants of yours.
In our lifetimes, we are gifted with a small number of truly “landmark” moments and genuinely extraordinary friends. Today is such a moment, and Joe and Helen are such friends. Your happiness is our happiness. Your example will be our touchstone.
It is with boundless admiration, gratitude and pleasure that I say thank you, Helen and Joe, on behalf of all of us here for the honor of sharing this special occasion with us. Congratulations and best wishes to you both. Everyone, please raise your glass.
Here’s to Helen and Joe—for a life together of many years, free of tears, and full of all the joy you both so richly deserve!