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Bush presents Chuck Norris with award

Martial arts legend speaks about his life, accomplishments

Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

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Jon Eilts

Former President George Bush introduces Chuck Norris before Norris is presented the McLane Leadership in Business Award in the Annenberg Conference Center at the George Bush Presidential Library.

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Jon Eilts

Chuck Norris was presented the McLane Leadership in Business award Tuesday in the Annenberg residential Conference Center at the George Bush Library. He was recognized for his achievements as a martial arts legend, entrepreneur and humanitarian.

Chuck Norris' life, as the world knows it, did not begin until after high school when he was stationed at a military base in Korea.

Norris was awarded the McLane Leadership in Business Award Tuesday at the George Bush Presidential Library. Among the four who presented the award to Norris for his exemplary achievements as a martial arts legend, entrepreneur and humanitarian was former President George Bush Sr.

Norris' visit drew a large crowd. The audience filled the auditorium and much of an over-flow room that displayed the presentation via close-circuit television.

Norris told the audience he grew up in poverty in Oklahoma. He said his father was an alcoholic, so his mother was forced to act as both parents.

"Unfortunately, not having a male role model in my life, I grew up extremely shy and introverted," Norris said, "and nonathletic. People say 'oh come on,' but it's true. I never played sports in school and I never got up in front of a class all through high school."

After graduating high school, Norris joined the United States Air Force.

Norris' first assignment was a military base in Korea. There Norris enrolled in his first Judo class and two weeks into his training, broke his shoulder.

Shortly after, he was walking through a local village when he saw two Koreans practicing what is now known as Taekwondo. Norris said he was mesmerized by the activities so he began training - with a broken shoulder. Norris left Korea a black belt.

Upon returning to the U.S., Norris won the Los Angeles, state of California, U.S. and world championships in consecutive years, all of which were amateur events. Norris joined the professional realm and won the world title six years in a row.

Norris retired a winner and went into teaching martial arts. Norris said one of his students, renowned actor Steve McQueen, pushed him to pursue acting. Norris went full steam.

"A philosophy I've developed over the years is once I start something, then by Coca-Cola I'm going to finish it," Norris said.

Through pure determination and hard work, Norris made a name for himself with his first three movies. At this point, he wanted to get back to martial arts and use it to help youth the same way it had helped him and his students.

"I'm a product of what martial arts can do for you, it turned my whole life around," Norris said. "It changed a young, insecure, nonathletic kid into a world champion and renowned actor."

Norris said he decided to find a way to do this for the youth who cannot afford to go to martial arts school. His plan was to teach it in public schools as an alternative physical education credit, however, the Board of Education rejected his proposal.

Years later, while having lunch with Bush in the White House, Norris' idea came up in conversation. This time, with the president's assistance, the program was implemented.

The program, known as KICKSTART, specifies that participants are not permitted to have any gang affiliations.

"These kids can be a productive part of society rather than a destructive part," Norris said.

The first school was opened in Houston and was a huge success, Norris said. He is using Texas as the beacon state for this program and said he thinks its effects will be seen in the decrease in youth crime and gang involvement.

"That's Gena (his wife) and my mission in life, next to God and our family, KICKSTART is our passion," Norris said.

It is for this program and Norris' devotion to it that he was bestowed the award.

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