he first question that is usually asked at interviews is , “ What is your WHY ?” Naturally , most people might become frustrated with that question . However , it is a psychological fact that you ask WHY five times when you want to drill down to the root answer . This may work on some people , but City of Ocoee Commissioner George Oliver was more than ready for the question . No matter how many times you asked him this question , his answer was always the same . You could almost hear him singing his answer in the form of the song from Mahalia Jackson , “ If I could help somebody , as I pass along ; If I can cheer somebody , with a word or song , … Then my living shall not be in vain . If I can do my duty as a good man ought … If I can spread love ’ s message , as the master taught , Then my living shall not be in vain .”
Even as a child , when asked what he wanted to do in life , his answer would be “ I am not sure but I know that I want to help many people along the way ; maybe a doctor , police officer , or a nurse ”. Well , he probably never guessed that helping a lot of people , thousands of people , would lead him to become the first African American City Commissioner in the City of Ocoee ’ s history . But make no mistake , George , as he likes to be called , is quick to let you know that this is not the beginning of his story of firsts or the end of it . There are many firsts in his life .
George Oliver III was the first African American to be the Executive Assistant to the Commanding Officer of a Navy ship carrying over 5,000 soldiers . Another first was becoming the African American to work with the then-new NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars . He was also the first African American pharmaceutical representative for Glaxo SmithKline . It did not take him long to realize that not everyone is happy that you are the first and that many people do not want you to be the first . But despite what people might think , George had a secret weapon . His interaction with Andrew Young was part of the foundation that he built upon .
As a young man in the rural Atlanta area , George did not realize that he was a minority . Everywhere he looked , everyone looked like him . Therefore it did not amaze him when Andrew Young would often walk the streets in the neighborhood . George remembers him stopping to play ball with the children at the sandlot near the hospital . He recalls that he came to speak to his class in elementary school . Andrew Young ’ s career from Ambassador to Congress to Mayor of Atlanta has always inspired George . Even more , inspiration was when he saw Andrew Young take a group of delegates to Japan and come back with a plan to revitalize the city of Atlanta . The sprawling airport , one of the largest in the nation , was a direct reflection of that visit . But he was mostly recollecting Young speaking to his class and saying they could be anything they wanted to be . If they wanted change , they had to be a part of the change . However , they could sit by with a bystander apathetic attitude .
George has been fascinated with this social psychology that describes that in the presence of many others , an individual will diffuse responsibility when seeing a potentially dangerous or socially unacceptable interaction and be less like to intervene . George prides himself in not living his life with bystander apathy , hence his desire to help others along his way . He truly believes that it is robbery if he does not use his gifts to help others . He is not afraid to admit that he wears his heart on his sleeve .
One of the final WHYs was why Ocoee . Smiling , he indicates that Ocoee was part of God ’ s master plan and not his . For an hour or more , we laughed over the analogy that if you want to make God laugh , tell Him your plans , always knowing that his plans for you are bigger often than you can see .
But the long story short is that he moved to Ocoee to be a part of the change he knew was needed . He makes no apologies for his interactions as City Commissioner , knowing that he has no real power . George knows that the real power belongs to the people . That is why he challenges his constituents to come to make history with him . It does not take a lot , just each one doing their part with no bystander apathy . It does not take much , therefore his slogan : WE CAN DO MORE WITH LESS !! n