I’ve waited a full year to share the lessons I learned from the most influential person in my life…my mother.

There was no funeral, no service. The children who could move away, did. She was alone in her last days. The obituary read simply:

On Thursday, June 8, 2023, Diane Clifford Neuman, age 81 of Baltimore passed away.

My mother did not inspire confidence, or kindness. But I learned so much from her.

I learned that no matter where you start, you can choose the person you want to be, you can decide how hard you will work, and how kind you will be to others.

When I was born, the nurse came to my mother and said, “Would you like to see your daughter?”

“No thanks, I have the rest of my life to look at her,” she replied. I know this story from her.

My mother taught me to be afraid, and that I was never enough.

She was a serial criminal, lifting groceries from the local store to feed her family, and going into business with a corrupt politician who was caught by the FBI.

Despite those early lessons, or maybe because of them, I decided in my twenties that character and integrity matter to me. That I can be bold and take initiative. Instead of looking for an easy payday, I learned to work hard. To deliver results.

I didn’t get it all right, but I never stopped trying.

When I built a company, and it was sold, she said, “I could have done what you did if I had the same opportunities.”

This surprised me because we both dropped out of high school. She started a family, and I lived out of my car while I saved the money for a down payment on an apartment.

The first time she publicly called me a liar was six months later when, still a teenager, I was attacked at gunpoint. She joined the police in not believing me. It would take me almost twenty years to prove I had been telling the truth.

My mother threatened to sue CBS News if they shared my story on 48 Hours. I did it anyway. That story led to connecting the perpetrator to twenty-five more cases.

Stand in your beliefs, and don’t let others define you.

Politics was what she loved the most. So I thought she’d be proud of me when I was sworn into public office.

“Mother, did you hear about my new job,” I said. It was an attempt to open the lines of communication.

“Yes, I heard,” she responded, and walked away.

She joined my opponent’s team and worked to see me lose my coveted seat as county executive. When a journalist was writing a profile piece on me, she was a prime source. He opened the interview with, “Your mother said you’re a liar.”

It would take ten years, but I have proven that I was telling the truth about how I grew up. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Invest in the people who care for you and don’t waste the years I have wasted wanting resolution, closure or forgiveness. Forgive yourself for wanting their love and then focus on loving yourself.

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