BELLEVILLE — Retired Air Force Col. Michael J. Hornitschek implored attendees of the 48th annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday to explore why they exist in this life, and to him, that's to help and lead others.
Hornitschek said his parents were German immigrants who wanted to start a new life in the United States after experiencing the devastation of World War II.
Hornitschek joined the Air Force because this land gave his parents opportunity and he wanted to give back to this nation. He retired in August as commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base.
Now Hornitschek is working for StraightUp Solar and he soon will teach physics and astronomy at McKendree University.
Hornitschek said he knows his strengths; he is not suited to be a pole vault athlete. But in these roles, he leads others.
"This room is filled with leaders from wall to wall," Hornitschek said.
On a daily basis, these leaders should mentor and inspire future leaders.
He asked the group, "Do all of you know how many days you have left on this Earth?"
If such things could be predicted, Hornitschek said, a 45-year-old like him probably has about 11,000 days left ahead.
He thought about what he would be doing for each and every single one of those days.
"Today is as precious as the last day of your life," Hornitschek said.
Many people do not like their jobs, but Hornitschek said he looks forward to going to work every day and that is an indicator that he is fully living his purpose: "... to help my fellow man and make the world a better place."
Hornitschek asked the crowd of more than 450 attendees at Fischer's Restaurant to explore their own purposes and strengths.
Hornitschek left cards on each table with reference to Simon Sinek's book, "Start with Why," which discusses how organizations can figure out why they exist. The concept pertains to individuals.
They start with why they exist, and then what they do and how they do it is simply a manifestation of why they exist, Hornitschek said.
Those who know "why" have greater resiliency to obstacles because they can place hardships in context, he said. It's also a precursor to happiness.
Individuals who already "know your why" are required by God to use those talents to fully live their purpose, and to help, lead and share with others, he said.
He urged the people of Belleville to keep up their community service, with the Boy Scouts or church or the city's bicentennial festivities in 2014.
What gives this community heart and soul, and it's All-American city distinction, are the people, Hornitschek said.
Mayor Mark Eckert said today is a good time to remember to give thanks, appreciate and ask why. The city's bicentennial is an opportunity to move the city forward and there's nothing the city can't accomplish, Eckert said.
He thanked the military for what they do "to keep us all safe and to keep us all free."
A handful of people in attendance were at the first Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, including K. Lane Miller, who spoke at the inaugural event. He was principal of Belleville Township High School at the time and later retired as superintendent of Belleville School District 201.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, also attended the breakfast.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at email@example.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.