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Keynote address: Baker honors all Deen Day Smith award recipients
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    Georgia’s Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker admitted he was influenced to enter the field of law because of his favorite childhood television show - Perry Mason.
    Baker was keynote speaker  Tuesday night at the  21st Annual Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Awards, an invitation-only gala held at Georgia Southern University’s Nessmith Lane Building.
    He also praised the night’s 23 honorees and thanked them for selfless volunteerism.
    The Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Awards, hosted by the Statesboro Herald and supported by numerous local businesses and individuals, honors those who serve others with compassion and dedication without expectation of compensation or credit.
    Over 700 area citizens have been honored with the award.  Twenty local citizens received Service to Mankind awards; Dr. William H. “ Bill Perry was named the Statesboro Herald Humanitarian of the Year and both Bulloch Telephone office manager Cecile Boulineau and retired Bulloch County sheriff Arnold Ray Akins received Lifetime Achievement awards Tuesday night.
    Gerald Edenfield, president of the Georgia Bar Association and partner with a local law office, introduced Baker.
    As he took  the stage, Baker welcomed the guests. “ I’m deeply honored to join you here in Statesboro and share with you  this extraordinary moment,” he said.
    He spoke of  the importance of doing for others, giving of one’s self and performing community service in the face of a challenged world.
    “What we’re dealing with here tonight is  reality,” he said. “People who are giving of  themselves.”
    He paid tribute to Deen Day Smith Sanders, for whom the awards are named. The wife of the late Cecil B. Day is a renowned humanitarian. Her love for butterflies are reflected in the gala’s theme. Baker called Sanders “ a walking testimony of what service is about.”
    He spoke of shared visions, hopes and dreams and called the award program’s honorees “ the real leaders in society.”
    Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he said “ Life’s most pressing  question is, what are you doing for others,” he said. “Our honorees were asked that question, and they answered ‘ service above self.’”
    ‘No man is an island,” Baker said. “And t he only way to get things done is a shared vision. In my opinion a shared vision bonds us tighter as a nation ... forms a cornerstone for policy in government.”
    Baker spoke of challenges faced today including foreclosures, the threat of child pornography and predatory lending and the fraud that surrounds it.
    “We need your help, now, more than ever before,” he said.
    Baker, who has been the state’s  Attorney General since 1997, has won three statewide elections for the office. In his most recent election, he carried 122 of Georgia’s 159 counties.
    Baker’s focus has been on fighting crime, corruption and consumer fraud. He  authored both Georgia’s ground breaking mortgage fraud statute  and  financial identity fraud statute,  which give law enforcement the power to break up and imprison fraud rings operating in Georgia.
     Baker introduced and passed legislation that raised penalties for child pornographers and closed loopholes in Georgia’s child pornography laws.  A strong advocate for Georgia’s Open Government laws, he created a mediation program in the Office of Attorney General dedicated to working with citizens and local governments that ensures records and meetings covered by Georgia’s Open Government laws are open to the public. He has also succeeded in litigation against organizations refusing to turn over documents covered by the Open Records Act.
    After Baker closed his speech, local businessman Bruce Yawn presented him with a gift. “You’ve inspired us and challenged us to take on that vision of service, and go out and do something,” he said. “I think what you’ve said has inspired all of us.”
    The Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Awards is an invitation-only event, named for the renowned humanitarian,Deen Day Smith Sanders,  whose late husband Cecil B. Day founded Days Inn. Sanders is known for her generosity and selflessness.

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