President of local United Way spoke to PLP students

Steve Kast’s PLP speech inspired students to lead with kindness

“No one has a greater impact on young people in the community than this man.”

Introducing the fourth speaker in the leadership speaker series to members of the President’s Leadership Program, President Paul Trible set the stage for Steve Kast.

Steve Kast, the current president and CEO of the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula and the former president of the Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula has been a leader in the community for the past thirty plus years. 

Kast spoke briefly about his role as a leader but focused more on the people and the kindness that got him to those roles.

Starting out the night he told the story of a young child embarrassed by not being able to afford tennis shoes for his gym class, instead, having to wear red bedroom slippers. Made fun of by his classmates, he was supported by his gym teacher and given the opportunity to show off his running abilities, gaining the favor of his classmates once again. After finishing the story, Kast admitted that that child was him, and admitted that this act of kindness from his teacher was influential in his choice to continue athletics which changed his life. (Kast came to CNU on a track scholarship and currently holds several records). 

“An act of kindness came to my rescue,” Kast said.

This theme of kindness was the focus of the night with Kast frequently offering moments and examples of small kindness that changed and influenced his life. From the first donation to the boys and girls club, to a letter from a child he helped, to a track coach that gave him the time of day and sat down with him before he made his college decisions, Kast reiterated time and time again that his life has been shaped and influenced by these moments of kindness. He encouraged students to lead with this same kindness.

“Even small acts of kindness can change the lives of others,” Kast said.

He also emphasized the fact that anyone can be a leader in the community. He stated that it didn’t matter if you were a CPA or the president of a non-profit, you can change the world, you can be a leader if you act with kindness. 

“You can be a leader in everything you do,” Kast said.

Kast also offered several practical moments of advice to young leaders, such as be competitive, do the things others won’t do, be at the table and be resilient. On the last point, Kast shared a story of the struggles he faced during his life in such rapid-fire succession it was hard to hear them all before he stated his main piece of advice: “Things happen. Don’t give up, move forward, keep your eyes on the prize and be kind and be resilient. Never ever let circumstances bring you down.”

Coming from a first-generation college student that had to work four jobs while on a track scholarship in order to attend college, this message was more than just an empty sentiment. 

Members of the CNU community could feel this. 

“All the other speakers [we’ve had] came from advantageous positions, but he literally came from nothing and was able to make his way up a company,” junior Christian Urch said.

The night ended not with a forced recitation of a pledge of kindness, but simply an offering of a pledge. One which he said that students, as leaders, should spend time thinking about. The pledge said the following:

“I proclaim I will lead with kindness by beginning today to treat everyone I meet with kindness and extend to them the care and understanding I can muster, and do it with no thought of reward.”

Kast is currently working with the United Way to increase the number of households that are above the Household Surviving Budget by 10 percent by 2030. 

Kast is also a member of the Christopher Newport University Board of Visitors and a Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Board Member. He also has previously written about the importance of kindness in The Daily Press.

~Morgan Barclay, Editor-in-Chief~

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